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National strike committee calls for more protests in Colombia

3 June, 2021A month after protests began in Colombia, the national strike comittee is calling for fresh demonstrations after the government refused to sign a preliminary agreement guaranteeing peaceful protests.

Protests have taken place across Colombia since 28 April. The national strike committee, made up of social, ethnic, community and union organizations (many of which are affiliated to IndustriALL), has supported the campaign since the beginning.

The committee is now calling on the government to sign a proposal to ensure that the protests are dimilitarized and that demonstrators’ human rights are respected. The committee has condemned the recent rise in police violence, especially in the city of Cali. It has also called for the repeal of the government’s militarization decree adopted on 28 May, setting out instructions for maintaining and re-establishing public order.

The committee has so far recorded 70 deaths from police violence during the protests (14 of which occurred on 28 May in Cali), 51 eye injuries, 1,502 arbitrary arrests and 87 incidents of gender-based violence.

Igor Díaz, president of Sintracarbón, says:

"Colombia is experiencing major social unrest, with the civil population rising up against state repression. The state is doing nothing, and many people have lost their lives.

"The government has backed down on some of its planned reforms, particularly in relation to tax and health care. However, there is still a lot of work to do and that's why we're calling for fresh protests. It's our responsibility to raise social awareness and try and create a different kind of country."

The committee says that it was due to the pressure from the protests that the government backtracked on its regressive tax and health-care reforms. The government withdrew its tax reform on 2 May, and the committees of the Senate and House of Representatives rejected the health-care reform on 19 May.

The strike committee has confirmed its willingness to hold a dialogue with the government. It has submitted a list of emergency demands for negotiation, calling for a rethink of the country's economic, social and political model and for the fight against poverty, inequalities, discrimination and violence to be prioritized.

The Committee on the Application of Standards taking place at the 109th session of the ILO’s International Labour Conference in Geneva, has included Colombia in its shortlist of countries with the most serious violations of international labour conventions. The Government of Colombia has to submit information on cases relating to Convention 87, on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize.

IndustriALL regional secretary, Marino Vani, says:

"We stand with the Colombian people and condemn the state and government violence; the murder and rape being committed by paramilitaries is unacceptable and is being used to sow fear and terror.

"We urge the government to change its attitude, stop the bullets and the repression, make dialogue a priority and provide a concrete response to the agenda proposed by Colombia's organized, representative and active citizens."