Colombia’s largest labor union CUT said on Monday that it will be working with students and striking labor groups to organize a third round of nationwide “cacerolazo” protests.
A cacerolazo, explained CUT Secretary General Tarciso Rivera in an interview with Colombia Reports, is an event in which protesters use pots, pans and other household appliances to create as much noise as possible and “literally make themselves heard.” Organizers are planning the latest one for Wednesday, as a show of continued support for the various national strike movements.
Two similar protests last week drew thousands of people to major urban centers across the country. The demonstrations, which went off without any incidents of violence, were commended by President Juan Manuel Santos as prime examples of “peaceful, democratic protest”.
The latest ‘cacerolazo’, however, will be the first coordinated national demonstration since last Thursday’s student protests degenerated into heavy fighting between police forces and protesters, after right-wing neoparamilitary groups allegedly instigated violent conflict in places like the Plaza Bolivar in downtown Bogota.
President Santos has since militarized the Colombian capital, and authorized national army troops to take charge in any urban area the in which the police lose control of public order.
Organizers say they want Wednesday’s demonstrations to echo the peaceful tone of their movements, and draw attention away from last Thursday’s violence, which they say the government has used to paint the national strikes in a radical light.
In an interview with Colombia Reports, Amaury Nunez, a spokesman from Colombia’s largest student organization (MANE), said the ‘cacerolazo’ is about “reminding Colombians of their right to peaceful protest and legitimate dissent”.
According to Nunez, the MANE, which is also playing an organizing role in Wednesday’s protests, “denounces the violence that dirtied last week’s important show of national protest.”
“We cannot comment,” he said, “on the identities of the people responsible for the violence, or their motives. That is for the authorities to handle. All we can do is continue to emphasize the basic rights of Colombians to peaceful protest, and encourage all of our members and supporters to act within their rights to express their well-founded grievances with the State.”
Secretary Rivera told Colombia Reports that Wednesday’s ‘cacerolazo’ will begin at 4pm in the Plaza Bolivar in Bogota, and that more information regarding other demonstrations will be available with local CUT representatives and on the organization’s website.
- Interview with Amaury Nunez
- Interview with Tarcisio Rivera