Colombia’s labor unions receive death threats as government considering negotiations to end protests

Colombia’s government is inching towards negotiations to end weekly-long anti-government protests as strike leaders on Thursday denounced new death threats.

The government agreed to study 104 specifications of the 13 demands after a meeting on Tuesday, government representative Diego Molano told conservative radio station RCN.

The National Strike Committee, whose strikes sparked the anti-government protests, said that the government was holding off negotiations on the demands that seek far-reaching economic and peace policy changes.

Union leaders who take part in the committee said Wednesday they received new death threats from the “Aguilas Negras,” a far-right group believed to have ties to the security forces.

Pollster Datexco confirmed polls by Datexco and Gallup that President Ivan Duque’s approval rating has dropped to a record low.

Negotiations and leverage

While the National Strike Committee persisted in negotiating its demands, Molano embarked on a media offensive in an apparent attempt to diminish the leverage of the labor unions, students and indigenous groups that are leading the broadly supported strikes and the protests.

“They propose to reform the socio-economic model, almost like a constituent assembly one would say,” Molano told Blu Radio, the station of Duque’s brother-in-law.

Colombia’s national strike: the social leaders’ demands

The government’s failed attempts to violently repress the protests have destroyed its leverage, making it almost impossible to negotiate without implicitly agreeing far-reaching concessions.

After his initial refusal to talk, the government’s current strategy seems to be buying time in the hope the protests lose their momentum and the strike leaders lose leverage.

So far, none of this has worked; Duque’s approval rating is practically on the floor and the protest leaders can continue to count on popular support.

The terror tactics continue

While Duque is trying to figure out how to get out of the mess he got himself in, leaders of the country’s workers and teachers unions received new death threats, teachers union FECODE said.

According to the union, the death threats referred to the strikes and a recent report on the mass killing of unionists during the armed conflict that was surrendered to the war crimes tribunal last month.

The group that sent the death threats, the Aguilas Negras, doesn’t exist according to the authorities, but are widely believed to be linked to far-right elements within the military and the private sector.

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