In Colombia, Mass Marches and a General Strike Erupt as Workers and Peasants Defy U.S.-Backed Uribe Government

by George Saunders

Latin America is living up to its reputation of recent years as a region of intense class struggle.

Earlier this month a one-day general strike shut down much of Peru, and that country’s cabinet resigned over a corruption scandal. But a mere change of faces in government office won’t meet the demands of protesting Peruvian workers and peasants. The class war is sure to continue in Peru, especially as indigenous peoples in both the Amazon and Andes regions continue to fight for their rights.

In Colombia, the indigenous peoples, inspired by more than a decade of successful struggles by the indigenous in other parts of South America, especially in Ecuador and Bolivia, began a weeklong march that was to culminate in Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, on October 26. A turnout of 30,000 was expected.

Among the five points over which Colombia’s indigenous are marching, one point is to say “No!” to the so-called Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, now being considered in the U.S. Congress.

Such trade agreements empower U.S. corporations to intensify their marauding despoliation of the natural resources of the poorer country. The non-U.S. “free trade” partner always gets the short end of the stick in such agreements with the monopolistic giants of U.S. finance capital.

An example is a mining operation in northern Colombia, in which U.S. corporations have the controlling stake and which has encroached on and ruined adjacent lands belonging to indigenous communities.

Another of the five points being raised by the marchers is the ongoing assassination of indigenous leaders by the Colombian government’s forces of repression, including military, police, and paramilitary. Even as this march got under way several of its participants were killed by gunfire coming from the police and military, as documented by videos shown by the marchers. The Uribe government had denied that its forces fired the fatal shots, but the evidence is there on videotape for all to see.

At the same time one of Colombia’s police “intelligence” officials was forced to resign when he was caught spying on an opposition legislator. That legislator had been supporting sugar-cane workers, who have been on strike since September.

The one-day general strike—which brought out half a million workers—was called by the main labor federation, the CUT. It was held on October 23 to protest and defy a “state of emergency” imposed by Uribe in an attempt to stop a strike by workers in the judicial system. The judicial workers’ strike has been on since early September.

Below we give links to articles on several web sites that have carried detailed information about this upsurge of actions by Colombia’s workers and peasants.

First is a link to an October 23 interview on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” with two supporters of the indigenous march (called a “Minga”).

Next is a link to the web site “Ukhampacha Bolivia,” which carries many news items about the indigenous struggle, not only in Colombia but in Bolivia and Peru as well.

Third is a link to a news item on the web site “In Defense of Marxism.”

Finally, at the end of the news item on <> readers will find another link—to the web site of “Radio Mundial,” a Venezuelan news source in Spanish only, but with striking photos of the “Minga” of Colombia’s indigenous peoples.