Colombia

The Colombian Paro Nacional [National Stoppage] has gone on for almost two months now. At its peak, 23 cities across the country saw uprisings against the government of Ivan Duque – a president seen by many as ex-president Alvaro Uribe’s puppet. Hundreds of thousands of workers and youth blocked the roads and marched through the streets of cities including Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla.

All over the world, solidarity protests have been organised in support of the Colombian workers and youth, who are locked in battle with the reactionary regime of Iván Duque. Comrades of the IMT have intervened in these demonstrations to show their support for this inspiring struggle.

Colombia’s national strike has been ongoing for 13 days now and has managed to secure Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla’s resignation and the withdrawal of the tax reform. It is still going strong in the streets, its lungs filled with fresh air. The government attacks the movement in an attempt to destroy it, but it is all in vain; every injury it sustains arouses its fury, develops its consciousness and intensifies its resolve. It is a movement filled with the energy of change that draws strength from the dignity the people have been deprived of for so long.

The movement in Colombia that successfully beat back Duque’s tax theft is at a crucial juncture. Our Colombian comrades have written the following 10 theses for how the struggle must proceed. The logic of this fight is a struggle for power with the regime. The main slogan must be: Duque Out!

Yesterday, on 3 May, Alberto Carrasquilla, the main proponent of the Tax Reform, exited through the back door, resigning with Vice Ministers Juan Alberto Londoño (Finance) and Juan Pablo Zárate (Treasury). The pressure from the national strike – which has now gone on for six days – and the total bankruptcy of the Duque-Uribe government, have put these pen-pushing officials to the test. In underestimating the power of the masses, they have been utterly scorched by it.

After five days of furious protests across 23 cities in Colombia against Ivan Duque’s tax bill (an austerity package meant to make the workers pay for the results of the pandemic), the government has withdrawn the bill. This is an overwhelming victory for the working class. For five days, more than 50,000 protestors took to the streets of Bogotá (these are official numbers and are probably an underestimation), with the rest of the nation following suit, in protest against a law that would worsen the conditions of daily life.

The national strike movement of 21 November 2019 has resurfaced like a revived giant as of 28 April, initiating what is becoming one of the greatest struggles of this period: the National Strike against the Tax Reform. The principle demand arose from exasperation caused by this obnoxious law presented by the Ministry of Finance. But behind it, there runs a deep discontent fomented by a long list of abuses against the ever–more impoverished masses at the hands of the Duque government. With each passing day, the strikers are adding new demands, whether or not they appear on the official list of demands.

The Colombian workers and youth are trapped in a nightmare. The parasitic bourgeoisie has totally failed to curb the coronavirus pandemic, and has used the economic crisis as an excuse to carry out further cuts and attacks on the working class. Socialist struggle is needed to free Colombia from its unbearable condition.

In the early hours of 9 September, the lawyer and taxi driver Jorge Humberto Ordoñez, father of two, was murdered by two National Police agents after 16 taser discharges and a beatdown, as he begged for his life. This crime, which was recorded by witnesses, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed the masses into the streets against police brutality and in demand of effective action against massacres, unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 4 August, the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia was filled with hope for the thousands of families awaiting justice for the crimes for which the former president and, until recently, senator Álvaro Uribe has been indicted. The court issued a sentence of house arrest based on the charges of possible witness tampering, procedural fraud and bribery. Those would be the least-serious crimes Uribe has committed.

"We are facing one of the greatest challenges in our history," said Iván Duque on Sunday, 15 March referring to the health alarm the country is facing due to the increase in cases of people infected with the COVID-19 virus. The disease, already declared as a pandemic by the WHO, has crossed the ocean and surpassed our borders to settle in Colombian lands.

In this article for America Socialista (published 17 January), Jorge Martin looks back on the tremendous ‘Red October’ that swept Latin America last year, with insurrectionary movements in one country after another. Where did these eruptions come from? What were their limitations? What lessons were learned? And what is the perspective going forward?

The situation in Colombia is advancing very rapidly after the national strike on 21 November. What was a one-day strike became a permanent and daily protest that is already a week old. The protest did not stop, despite the curfew and militarisation decreed in the capital Bogotá (and in Cali) by the reactionary Duque government. The death of the young Dilan Cruz, who was shot by a tear gas canister directly in the head by ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron) has shocked the country. In response, the National Strike Committee decided to call for a new national strike on 27 November and to include among its demands the dismantling of ESMAD.

In his latest podcast (recorded 25 November), Jorge Martin provides an update on the recent strike in Colombia, the month-long uprising in Chile, and the struggle against the coup in Bolivia.

On 21 November, a powerful general strike paralysed Colombia. Originally called to reject a package of measures by the right-wing government of Ivan Duque, including a counter reform of the labour laws, a counter reform of pensions and massive cuts in education, it became the focal point for accumulated anger. The strike was the largest the country has seen since 1977 and there were mass demonstrations in every town and city. The government responded with repression and threats. This only served to escalate the situation.