COLOMBIA: National Strike in Bogota

Photo: Thousands protest in Bogota during national strike

The following is an unofficial translation from revolutionary Colombian news source EL Comunero Prensa

Translation By Emiliano Guerrero

On November 21, a 24-hour national strike was convened by trade unions and other organizations from different sectors. In Bogota, the strike was preceded by important mobilizations led by university students, who had been out on the streets protesting since September 23 against corruption, demanding compliance with the agreements of the student strike from last year, and against state repression by the police, in particular the Mobile Riot Squad (ESMAD).

Given the reception of the strike by the working class and the discredit of [Colombian President Ivan] Duque, the State through the government, the media, and the Church unleashed a campaign of fear turning to “international anarchism,” to “plans of the São Paulo forum to destabilize the region,” “foreign infiltration of Venezuelans to cause violence,” which was accompanied by a “convenient” detection of explosives days before the strike that would “possibly” be used in marches, and was accompanied by raids (several of which were declared illegal) and the detainment of activists (who had to be released the next day demonstrating their arbitrariness) from social movements (anarchists), where bandanas, posters calling for the strike were shown as dangerous material, and supposed findings of material to develop (1500) “potato bombs [homemade explosives].” Presidential speeches, social networks, large media outlets repeated “vandalism,” “violence,” etc. pretending to generate fear and cover the masses’ disapproval of the anti-people measures [of the government] and state repression.

The day of the national strike hundreds of thousands were in the city, some saying it was the largest in Colombian history. Trade unions, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], social and popular movements, intellectuals, the middle class, and a massive participation of students took different routes than those publicized by the bureaucrats of the trade union, with the objective of demarcating from the bureaucracy, generating greater impact on the city and making the strike feel stronger, in addition to knowing the actions of the police, they had a shelter at the National University in the face of possible attacks by the ESMAD. In the morning, some of the main avenues were barricaded, the southern highway was quickly disbanded by the low participation of people, but on the other side of the city in Suba, there was a massive presence of residents of the area blocking and generating the first clashes with the police, who unsuccessfully tried to open the avenue, by that time organized drivers in the workers’ union of the Transportation System had prevented the operation of one of the companies since the early morning despite the repression of the ESMAD that was carried out without hesitation.

By the evening, given the repression initiated by the police, resistance was emerging in the center of the city, while students resisted on the avenue leading to the airport, clashes lasted until late at night at two points of entrance at the National University, student participation was very important due to the large numbers and their decision to combat state repression. The police used hundreds of tear gas canisters and stun grenades, rubber and paint bullets, in addition to the several tanks deployed to destroy the barricades and water cannons used to quell the combativeness of young people.

Many believed that the strike was coming to an end, when a call for a noise demonstration was made on social media in solidarity with the strike and in rejection of police repression resulting in dozens of marches throughout neighborhoods, pointing out the necessity and the possibility of continuing the strike, the city rumbled in working class and middle class neighborhoods. The strike in the city was far from over, the masses were in the streets and expressed repudiation of the government, the desire for change, whole families in pajamas and flip flops armed with pots and spoons roamed the neighborhoods and gathered more people.

On November 22, unlike the previous day, the protests moved to working class neighborhoods where the poorest people in the city live, stations and entrances of TransMilenio were blocked, hundreds of young people fed up with the lack of basic needs, without work, without education, living off their hustle, the high cost of living, and misery wages, confronted the police until late at night when the government decreed a curfew (in the best style of military governments) and unleashed their plan to generate fear, with networks alerting of attacks on residential complexes, and massive looting, creating a collective hysteria with paramilitary and xenophobic attitudes that sought to gain the support of the people towards the police and the army (in several places they succeeded, at the passage of tanks, the army and police motorcycles were applauded). But the next morning, hungover and outraged after realizing the deception they had been victims to, a deception that only had some beneficiaries, the ruling class successfully stopped the mobilizations and promoted pacifism used to stop the growing combative mobilization of the people and in particular of the youth that has been shaking off the discourse to pacify the rebellion of the people that was imposed with the Havana Accords.

On the third consecutive day of struggle in Bogota, after a day of intense struggle in the streets and the terror unleashed by the State, large concentrations of people that began to form before noon and continued until late at night, marked by slogans against fear, but maintaining the demands against the Duque government and against police repression. It was in one of these mobilizations that, unlike the previous days, the police were not attacked, walls were not tagged, and entities of the large private and state capital were also not attacked, [but the state used] brutal repression with tear gas, stun grenades, and “recalzadas” (tubes of tear gas filled with blunt objects) to prevent it from reaching the Plaza de Bolívar, killing a young student from Dilan Cruz high school.

During the six days of protests, noise demonstrations were carried out in working class neighborhoods, and gatherings in some places of the city. The strength that the masses have shown in the mobilizations is inspiration for the path that must be traversed in the conquest of their rights. They demonstrated belligerence, and unlike other mobilizations, it has lasted six days in different fighting spaces. The urgent need to advance the revolutionary organization of young people, workers, women, and peasants is evident. Organization without the bureaucracy of self-proclaimed trade union leadership of the strike, which coordinates the selling-out the struggle, and will not be able to advance to a society under the leadership of workers, peasants, and the masses in general, without the necessary revolutionary organization, what we conquer today, we will lose tomorrow, because the people will not have power. This is why highlighting the determined participation of revolutionaries in the marches, protests, and combative actions, raising the flags of struggle for a Popular State of Workers and Peasants, distinguishing between the masses and those who oppress them, as well as calling for the combativeness of the masses to conquer their rights.

A new national strike has been convened for Wednesday November 27, the masses will be in the streets and the ruling class will try to silence, cover and repress the nonconformity and rebellion, so in response the revolutionaries will shout if the repression intensifies, it is right to rebel.

Further coverage of the strike and popular protests in Colombia: