Left Voice - May 1, 2021
From the 2019 Strike to the Present
Since the massive strikes and protests that broke out on November 21, 2019, Colombia has been rocked by spurts of mobilizations across the country; the austerity measures and repression of the Duque government have opened a profound process of incessant class struggle among the nation’s working, poor, and indigenous people. Among the many targets of rage against the current regime is the state’s unspoken policy of massacring activists and opponents of the regime across the country, a hold over from the country’s long Civil War; as Indepaz reported recently, at least 33 of these state-sanctioned mass killings have taken place in 2021 alone, resulting in the murder of 119 people.
The massive marches that began in November 2019 were followed by more national mobilizations in December. People took the street again in January 2020, and again in February in outrage over the murder and repression of activists and leaders of social movements across the country.
This social unrest, and the violent repression by the government, foreshadowed a deeper crisis about to unfold in Colombia, whose economy has been devastated by the pandemic. Intermittent protests shook the country in March and April 2020, in reaction to the nationwide quarantine ordered by Duque’s government. Millions of people, primarily precarious workers who constitute a high percentage of the population, were thrown into further economic hardship by the stay-at-home order; meanwhile, Covid-19 ripped through the country and the government proved itself completely incapable of dealing with the health crisis.
By June 2020, the protests came back in full force — thousands of workers participated in national strikes and mobilizations across the country; however, these paled in comparison to the weeks of revolt in September and October, which resulted in 13 deaths at the hands of Duque’s repressive forces. These mobilizations were led by Colombia’s youth, who mobilized in higher numbers than ever before, outraged by the government’s military response to the pandemic and Duque’s attacks on their futures.
These waves of protests have now culminated in the most recent mobilizations which began on April 28, in the middle of an aggressive third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. With thousands of people participating in demonstrations across the country, the force of these mobilizations are reminiscent of the height of the 2019 protests. Once again, the government deployed the Esmad (Mobile Anti-riot Squadron) forces, who fulfilled their usual repressive role: one woman lost an eye in a confrontation with officers in Bogotá and a young man was killed by police in Cali. ...
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