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Dispatches from a Colombia on Strike- Accompaniment Report


Right now we have a team accompanying the ongoing strike in Colombia. Below is a snippet of what they have witnessed.

During an afternoon at one of Cali, Colombia's "points of resistance," people from the neighborhood stopped by the community kitchen for a meal - many of the young people in the "primera línea" (on the front line) are primary breadwinners for their families, a role they cannot fulfill while standing guard full time against assaults by the police. Others painted banners or made music, as children and pets wandered in and out. And others filled sandbags…

Some of the individuals from the primera linea who had been detained by the police earlier described the cruel and degrading, torturous treatment they had suffered: having your head stomped on; getting sprayed in the face at close range with a fire extinguisher until you choked; being forced to stand until you collapsed; having the food your family brought for you turned away with obscene commentary.

People spoke of the police using unmarked, ordinary-looking houses as detention centers, of how a pair of deaths of young people reported officially as a traffic accident were described by the medical examiner as homicide.

One member of the primera linea showed a list of what the paro nacional (the national strike) has already won: the withdrawal of government proposals to shift tax burdens onto the working class, and of proposals to further privatize health care; the removal of an army general as de facto ruler of the city; new subsidies for the employment of young people, and tuition-free higher education for the rest of this year for students from lower-income families.

Another list described what is yet to be won, especially in employment, education, health care, and housing. Meanwhile a women's group in matching t-shirts displayed a banner and chanted.

On the eve of the strike reaching the one-month mark, this afternoon was one of transitory calm.



The following day, at the conclusion of a thousands-strong, exuberant march - people salsa danced as they went - word rippled through the multitude that the police SWAT team was moving in on the resistance point of Siloé. By evening gunfire rang out. We are trying to confirm whether one of the people shot dead was among those who had generously shared their experiences with us.

Stayed tuned for more updates from the Strike.

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