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Colombia enters third week of protests: Bogota, Washington prepare to step up crackdown

 Colombia protests enters third week : Bogota, Washington prepare to step up crackdown

Tens of thousands of people in all cities and major cities of Colombia took part in mass marches, roadblocks and other demonstrations on Wednesday on the third day of the "national strike" and the fourteenth day of protest in the country of South America.

Colombia protests enters third week : Bogota, Washington prepare to step up crackdown

The "strike" was called by the National Strike Committee, which brings together the main trade union confederations and farmers' associations, after it suspended talks with the government of far-right President Ivan Duque on the first day. of the "national dialogue", Monday.

Since 2019, unions and government have repeatedly employed a combination of talks with intermittent calls for 'national strikes', in which unions fail to mobilize powerful oil, auto and other industrial sectors, while s 'trying to dispel popular anger.

On Tuesday morning, Duque traveled to Cali, the country's third largest city and epicenter of the protests, where he met officials from the Colombian army, the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice. He then announced that his administration would finance a semester of free courses for university students from the most disadvantaged social strata and called for the continuation of the "national dialogue".

The National Strike Committee has deliberately refused to come up with a clear strategy or set of demands, while its leaders feed their contacts in the corporate media with calculated and sweeping statements aimed at restraining the protests.

However, the protest movement remains decentralized, without leadership and remains isolated from the massive support that exists among the strategic sectors of the working class in Colombia and internationally, which facilitates the maneuvers of the police and the State to break it.

While marking a more advanced stage of the class struggle, the uprising follows the same path as the mass protests in Chile, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Haiti and Colombia even in 2019. The pseudo-left , representing elements in the middle class, attempts to idealize the leadershiplessness and spontaneity of the protests, or to subordinate them to futile appeals to union bureaucracies, which aim to isolate and further demobilize them.

In Cali, roadblocks and marches have been most prominent in marginal neighborhoods where the poorest sections of the working class live and where demands are made for basic necessities, access to online courses and social infrastructure.

According to government statistics, the Cali metropolitan area saw its official poverty rate (an income of less than $ 87 per month) drop from 21.9 percent to 36.6 percent between 2019 and 2020. The crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly devastating for the poorest fifth of Cali's population, who has seen their real income drop massively by 50.1 percent. Nationally, the poverty rate rose to 42.5 percent. The poorest quintile experienced even larger real income declines in Bucaramanga (55.1 percent), Ibagué (50.9 percent) and the capital Bogota (50.3 percent).

Meanwhile, intensive care unit beds are full in Cauca, the wider Valle de Cauca department and cities across the country, deaths from COVID-19 remain at record levels nationwide. This social and health disaster that is fueling the growing popular uprising is by no means unique to Colombia.

The same policy of prioritizing profits and attracting foreign capital at the expense of protecting lives and livelihoods has had similar results across Latin America, where social tensions are reaching breaking point. . Last year, the region lost 34 million jobs and 22 million people fell below the official poverty line, with the ranks of the poor reaching one-third of the region's 600 million residents. Meanwhile, Latin America accounts for 30 percent of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 globally, while it has less than 9 percent of the world's population.

The Duque government is preparing to step up the crackdown. On Sunday, he redeployed hundreds of troops to Cali, while Defense Minister Diego Molano placed a target on the backs of impoverished workers in the city.

On Tuesday, Molano tweeted: "In 13 days of protests, terrorists infiltrated the marches left 849 police officers injured." He added: "In Cali, criminal organizations continue to incite violence."

Already, no less than 548 reports of disappearance of demonstrators have been filed. The government mediator says 168 of them are still missing, and the Missing Persons Tracing Unit counts 379. Forty protesters were killed by police and 1,003 were arbitrarily arrested, according to the NGO Temblores.

The crackdown is being carried out not only with the support of the Biden government in Washington, but also in close coordination with the Pentagon.

The current Colombian military official integrated into the Southern Command of the United States, Army Colonel Héctor Iván Macías, told the Inter-American Dialogue on March 29 that, thanks to a daily strategy with the Pentagon, the Colombian army launched the 'Operation San Roque' in response to the pandemic.

Tacitly admitting that US-Colombian military cooperation rests on the idea that the pandemic represents a potential crisis for the capitalist regime itself, Colonel Macías said the plan aims to "maintain the governance exercised by the President of the Republic. , local leaders and institutions ”.

For several days, during the ongoing crackdown, the senior enlisted adviser of the United States Security Assistance Command, "the face of the military in the world," "held commitments, briefings , meetings and encounters with key Colombian leaders, ”as reported on the US military's website on May 5.

“The presence of US forces, who live and work with their partners on a daily basis at the Colombian air base [in Tolemaida], says a lot about the relationship between the two countries as they work side by side to strengthen Colombian military capabilities. and promote regional stability, ”the article mentions, referring to one of the seven military bases used by US forces in Colombia.

This extends to cyber operations. The US military tweeted Tuesday its "very first virtual cyber defense exchange with Colombian military forces." It comes as protesters and journalists on the ground report internet shutdowns as part of the crackdown.

So far, the documented killings have been carried out by police, including plainclothes policemen, not soldiers. However, since its official creation in the 1950s, the National Police has operated within the Department of Defense and has been developed by US imperialism as a counterinsurgency force to combat leftist guerrillas and social opposition.

The National Strike Committee and the pseudo-left are focusing on a demand for the dismantling of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) and the reorganization of the police. This framework seeks to distract workers and youth from their opposition to the entire Colombian state, its imperialist US backers and the capitalist system.

In addition, by opposing the necessary lockdowns and sufficient aid to workers in the event of a pandemic, Colombian unions and the entire political establishment have demonstrated their commitment to defending the lucrative activities of Colombian banks and corporations, themselves dependent on Wall Street.

The Colombian uprising is part of a comprehensive counter-offensive by workers around the world against the policy of "social murder" advanced by the capitalist ruling elites on a global scale. The International Committee of the Fourth International calls for the construction of the International Workers' Alliance of grassroots committees to consciously organize and unify this struggle based on the perspective of world socialist revolution.

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