CUT Colombia: 7 reasons to explain the National Strike in Colombia

Colombia’s main trade union confederation, the CUT, has published a list of core factors in the unprecedented protests currently taking place across Colombia. For several days, Colombians have taken to the streets in large numbers to protest economic inequality and to show their support for peace, human rights and social justice.

You can read the CUT’s article on the protests below.

November the 21th of 2019, will be remembered as the most important civic protest against any government in the History of Colombia. It is a very important event for the mixture of the sectors that participated and for the number of people who took to the streets in both Capital and small cities (between 6 and 7 million according to the most conservative calculations).

The economic policy of the last governments plus the recommendations made by the OECD, the repeated broken promises of the government regarding the peace process and the fair claims from the indigenous, the student and the union organizations are the main citizen motivations behind the strike. Here are the 7 most important reasons explained:

  1. Social security. A reform that aims to change the public pension administration system (Solidarity regime of average premium), by an individual savings scheme. This proposal is contradictory to the principles of solidarity, universality, and efficiency of the right to social security promoted in the Political Constitution.
  2. Peace process. Protesters accuse the government of not rigorously implementing the agreements that put an end to the conflict with the FARC guerrillas, including the economic and social plans foreseen for those areas that have been historically most affected by the armed conflict, and the protection of the demobilized.
  3. Privatizations. The government advances a plan to open the path of privatization of 19 state financial entities, in addition to the rest of 20% of the shares of the state oil company (Ecopetrol) and the state quota of ISA (energy company) and Cenit (oïl and gas transport).
  4. Human rights. The lack of government protection against the growing threats of the paramilitary and the systematic murders of social leaders in rural Colombia is a source of indignation and protest at the national level. Add to this the recent scandals over the murder of 18 minors in a bombing of the National Army, which forced the resignation of the Minister of Defense.
  5. Non-compliance with social organizations. Indigenous, trade union and student organizations have reached agreements with the government in the previous protest. Today they denounce systematic breach of the government in the signed agreements. The agricultural organizations demand the revision of the free trade agreements (FTA). For their part, women’s organizations demand real measures to overcome discrimination.
  6. Labor Reform. A labour reform presented by the government party that proposes to deepen labour flexibility and deteriorate working conditions such as the hourly contribution and announcements of business sectors linked to the government such as the payment of 75% of a minimum wage to young people, add to the reasons for the now called 21N National Strike.
  7. Fracking, The Paramo and the environment. The government has advanced measures to make feasible the method of hydraulic fracturing for oil extraction despite the very high environmental risks of this technique (breaching a President Duque electoral campaign promise). It has also been permissive with mining in paramos (case of Santurban, Santander). This constitutes another reason for the mobilization of sectors and environmental organizations throughout the country.

The response of the President and the ruling party during the days leading up to the demonstration has been to stigmatize the protest, disqualify the social leaders who summon it and militarize the main cities. The statements made by the government after the protest day completely ignored the content of the protesters’ demands.

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