Saturday, January 22, 2022

Colombia unions halt dialogue with Duque, call new strike

The heads of Colombia’s CUT union, Diogenes Orjuela and the CGT union, Julio Roberto Gomez (2nd from left), along with other union leaders speak to reporters after speaking with President Ivan Duque (not shown) at Nariño Palace in Bogota on Nov. 26, 2019. EFE-EPA/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Bogota, Nov 26 (efe-epa).- The heads of Colombian labor unions and social movements on Tuesday broke off negotiations with President Ivan Duque to demand that he speak directly with them and called for a new “national strike” later this week to protest the government’s economic and social policy.

“Tomorrow, Nov. 27, we’re going to stage another national strike all over the country along with big mobilization events to demand that the government negotiate the ‘big package’ we have pointed to as the causes that set off this social protest,” Elias Fonseca, a member of the executive committee of the powerful CUT union, told EFE.

The labor unions say that the Duque government is preparing a “big package” of reforms that will have a huge economic and social impact on workers, including eliminating the state Colpensiones retirement fund, increasing the retirement age and hiring young people at salaries below minimum wage, among other measures.

Fonseca said that the unions had added three new demands to their initial demands, including “the health care problem, the environmental and fracking problem” and the disbanding of the Esmad riot control force within the police that caused the death of young Dilan Cruz, who sustained a fatal head wound on Saturday when a police stun grenade exploded and died Monday night.

Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez speaks to reporters after meeting with union leaders in Bogota on Nov. 26, 2019. EFE-EPA/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

“Really, this situation is the state’s responsibility. Dilan was one of millions of Colombians asking for a solution to the problems contained in the ‘big package,'” Fonseca added.

Cruz became the first fatality at the hands of the police around the country since the protests began last Thursday and his death comes in addition to three other people who died in riots on that day in the cities of Buenaventura and Candelaria, in southwestern Valle del Cauca province.

“Today we’re in mourning, … but we’ll keep moving forward because the Duque government has not paid any attention to the requests of workers,” he said.

The representatives of the National Strike Committee abandoned the negotiations with the government because they want to speak directly with Duque without the participation of businessmen or members of other sectors, but the president said that starting now those talks “are going to expand to the entire national territory, talking with the people about the things that have never been resolved,” Fonseca said.

Meanwhile, Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez said that the government has “a large number of points” of agreement with the demonstrators on issues like labor reform, environmental sustainability, agricultural development and education.