Colombia’s strike leaders tell the government to listen

By Genevieve Glatsky November 26, 2019

Representatives of the National Strike Committee say strikes in Colombia will continue and ask president Duque to listen to the demands of the country.

Colombia's strike leaders walked out of the dialogue with the President because the President wants to discuss agenda while they want to discuss the original manifesto.
Colombia’s strike leaders walked out of the dialogue with the President because he did not want to discuss their original manifesto. Photo: Lukas Kaldenhoff

As we enter the sixth day of demonstrations across Colombia, commentators were unsure as to whether the press conference held by the National Strike Committee (CNP) would herald an intensification of the protests or an end to them. 

The uncertainty did not last for long however, as leaders of the protests arrived fresh from a meeting with President Iván Duque – a meeting they had left after he refused to agree to their demands. They announced that negotiations had fallen through and that the marches would continue.

Fabio Arias, the head of the central workers union, CUT, said that the government did not want to discuss the manifesto which is at the heart of the national strike. Instead the government proposed that the strike leaders join the Gran Conversación Nacional along with business leaders, the Attorney General, Congress and the rest of Colombian society.

“So we said we would not be in that dialogue,” said Arias. “Because we want to discuss the manifesto which was the reason we called the strike.”

The National Strike Committee’s manifesto includes the eradication of the ESMAD riot police, who Arias described as a “state organ of assassination.” They also asked the government to get rid of Decreto 2111 enacted on November 24, which creates a financial holding company that CUT says opens the door to privatising 16 public companies.

They demanded the government pay attention to what the people want: “The country is saying here, we have a different agenda. We have translated it into this manifesto. Listen to it. It’s in the street. Listen to it. We don’t want your agenda.”

Read more on Colombia’s national strike:
Dilan Cruz, face of a generation
Sin Violencia – A first person account to the protest

Read all our coverage on the national strike

The leaders said that demonstrations will continue today (November 26) – including a national cacerolazo at noon and a velatón at the usual sites, and would intensify on Wednesday in tribute to the “symbol of this national strike, Dilan Mauricio Cruz Medina.”

“We will say to the government, it already cost us a dear, young life,” said Arias, adding, “the only thing he did was to peacefully protest.” 

The Wednesday protests will also serve as an opportunity to demand the dissolution of ESMAD, police reforms, and the withdrawal of the reforma tributaria

Strike leaders call for nationwide strike again tomorrow November 27.

The CNP said they would hold assemblies for various interest groups this weekend across the country to better coordinate the demonstrations. It aims to form a permanent coalition organization to take part in the national negotiations.

The list also called for daily CNP meetings at 6pm at Fecode, and for participation in the plenary sessions of the House and Senate on November 27 and 28, respectively.

For his part, Duque tweeted that he had met with the strike leaders and he invited them to join the national conversation. He also reported that an anti corruption bill had passed its plenary session. He continues to stress that the government is working to improve the health, education systems and it is ready to listen to all sections of society.