On Wednesday, Colombia’s largest labor union declared Thursday a national day of protest in support of striking farmers and miners. The union demands President Juan Manuel Santos talk to the organizers of labor strikes that are building steam across the country.
The United Workers Center (CUT) announced it would be partnering with leaders of Colombia’s less publicized protest movements in its National Day of Struggle and Solidarity to bring attention to the national labor organizations being ignored by the Santos administration.
In a statement, CUT President Alejandro Pedraza explained that “what the government did [Monday and Tuesday] was promote a labor [negotiation] table for the agriculture sector, but it hasn’t tried to involve itself at all in any of the other conflicts” like that of miners and truckers who have also refused to work since last week.
CUT General Secretary Tarsicio Rivera told Colombia Reports that demonstrations are scheduled to take place Thursday in each of the 32 departmental capitals, including Bogota, and all other large urban centers in Colombia.
The event seeks to highlight the national platforms of labor groups, such as health workers, truckers and teachers, whose movements have been somewhat eclipsed by the public clamor over the agricultural strikes, but the marches will also give sectors recently entering the protest fray an opportunity to spread their messages.
Entering large-scale protest activities for the first time since the start of the recent wave of civil unrest are the national oil (USO), student (MANE) and banking (UNEB) unions.
The USO announced Saturday it would be joining protest, but it wasn’t until earlier this week that it publicly solidified its intentions. On Thursday, oil workers will go on 24-hour strike to participate in the CUT’s national day of protest. According to a statement posted on its website Wednesday, entitled “Wake Up Colombians! They’re Stealing Your Oil!”, the strike is in protest of a long history of neo-liberal economic policy and globalization efforts that send cheap Colombian oil oversees, keep domestic combustible costs at among the highest levels in the world and prevent both workers and citizens from enjoying the massive profits involved in petro-production.
USO sympathizes, it said, with the plight of Colombia’s striking truckers, and shares many of their complaints regarding the ongoing free-trade negotiations with South Korea, and the generally inflated cost of gas throughout Colombia.
Colombia’s bank workers, too, are protesting free trade. A spokesman for the union told local media on Tuesday that “the finance sector has never been far from the struggles the Colombian people have opened”, claiming that bank workers previously warned of “the situation that the signing of the [Free Trade Agreement with the United States] was going to generate, the one overwhelming the country’s agriculture”.
The national student union has yet to decide whether it will launch an indefinite strike. It says it is leaving that decision for later, choosing instead to attempt a formal dialogue with the government to avoid another massive university shutdown like the one that occurred in 2011. The students say that the agreements that ended MANE’s previous large-scale protests, however, have gone unfulfilled. They are protesting the ongoing privatization of the public education system, and demanding the government comply with the promises it made in 2011.
For Thursday’s protests, the students will be dressed in typical campesino clothing to lend their support to the agriculture protests, but they have planned a series of protests for early September that will specifically address their own issues, and are expected to lay out an official proposal to the government tomorrow.
Rivera encouraged anyone unable to attend to participate in the second round of national “cazerolazos” (the banging of pots and pans) planned for Wednesday night.
In Bogota, Thursday’s march will begin in the National Park at 9AM and make its way to the Plaza Bolivar at around midday. Rivera directed interested parties to contact local CUT chapters to find out more information about the demonstration schedule for other cities.
- Interview with Tarsicio Rivera
- CUT website
- La Cut convoca a marcha nacional para el proximo 29 de agosto (CM&)
- Cuatro nuevo sectores anuncian gran marcha nacional este jueves (El Pais)