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
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.
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.