Social leaders who have been leading massive anti-government protests in Colombia will meet on Friday ahead of talks with the government later this month.
President Ivan Duque’s emissary, Diego Molano, said on Sunday that talks with the so-called National Strike Committee will resume on January 19.
The protests that began on November 21 last year waned over the holiday season, but could reignite to convince the government to negotiate demands for far-reaching policy changes.
So far, the National Strike Committee has not called any new strikes or protests, but this could change after the January 19 meeting with the government.
Regional strike committees and social organizations will begin meetings on January 15 in anticipation of this year’s first meeting with the government that so far has refused to negotiate any demand.
In his press conference, however, Molano no longer ruled out negotiations. Instead, Duque’s emissary said that the government under no circumstance would negotiate specific demands.
Some of these demands, like the government’s controversial security policy, are key to the National Strike Committee, particularly the students and indigenous groups who have suffered extreme violence respectively by the police and illegal armed groups.
As the government slowly appears to be preparing concessions, the social organizations are trying to regain their ability to organize mass protests and increase their leverage.
The security forces’ initial attempts to violently quell peaceful protests backfired and virtually destroyed popular support for Duque, who already was suffering low approval ratings.
Attempts to stigmatize the broadly supported protests also appear to have failed as, according to Gallup, broad support for the protests remained virtually unchanged throughout December.
To further weaken the government’s position, mayors and government who dealt Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party a major blow in October took office on January 1.
Opposition politicians announced legal action against the security forces in part over the violence used against peaceful protesters.
According to the strike organizers, Duque has been trying to hold off negotiations, a strategy that could also have adverse effects now that government critics have taken control over the country’s largest cities and lawsuits are piling up.
The social organizations are now reorganizing to make sure they recover the momentum they were able to maintain throughout December as the government appears to prepare for negotiations.