Hundreds of people marched through the center of Colombia’s second city on Wednesday, protesting a new anti-phone theft law which they said impedes their right to work.
Approximately 400 cellular phone repairers from Medellin blocked traffic as they marched to the city hall, La Alpujarra, demanding that they be allowed to repair cellular devices and open bandwidths, and insisting that being prohibited from doing so is an incursion on their rights.
On May 20, the government announced new measures to reduce the circulation of stolen phones and associated violence. These included blocking the use of phones reported stolen and requiring that establishments which carry out phone repairs be authorized by cellular phone operators or by the Communications Ministry, or otherwise face closure.
One of the protest organizers, Freddy Jesus Saenz, told Colombia Reports that he and other demonstrators support the blocking of stolen phones but must continue to be allowed to open bandwidths, as the choice to do so is the “right” of the customer.
Saenz stated that, “We want to be allowed to reuse cellular devices, which is allowed in other countries. Here in Colombia they want to end it. We agree with the part about not stealing.”
Participants in the march waved banners and blew whistles as they chanted, “Cell phones are giving us food. We have families to maintain.”
The protesters are requesting that the Minister of Social Protection — who is in charge of labor affairs — intervene to protect their “essential” right to work and that the Inspector General’s office step in to defend their constitutional rights.
A simultaneous march in the nation’s capital, Bogota, occurring with the participation of over 2,000 merchants from the city’s San Andresito sector, in which the cheapest phones and other gadgets are sold, is making the same demands on the government, Caracol Radio reported.
The government has given cellular phone repair shops two months from May 20 to obtain the required authorization.