Colombian workers, their unions along with students, indigenous and Afro-Colombian and environmental groups took to the streets today in the third nationwide march to protest government moves that would reduce worker-rights protections, pensions and funding for education and increase electricity costs. The protests also demand full implementation of the 2016 peace accords.
The protests started on November 21, when an estimated 250,000 Colombians marched in cities across the country, driven by a coalition of unions—the Central Workers’ Union (CUT), Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC), General Labor Confederation (CGT) and the Confederation of Pensioners of Colombia (CPC)—and now have been joined by a wide array of civil society organizations that formed the coalition of protesters, the “Mesa del Paro.”
The coalition presented the government with 13 requests, including repeal of new laws that make it easier to eliminate many labor rights protections and give a massive tax break for big corporations while cutting back on basic services for working people.
Colombians also are protesting the government’s moves to privatize the pension system, base pension payments below the minimum wage and increase the cost of electricity by 35 percent, according the Colombian union federation CUT, a longstanding Solidarity Center partner, which represents 500,000 members. In addition, they are decrying the government’s inaction on the murders of community leaders and activists, as well as corruption draining the public coffers.
Following the November 21 protests, the government initially agreed with requests by the Mesa de Paro to hold a dialogue, but the government called for members of the military, police and corporate representatives to join in the discussions. The government ultimately accepted a direct and exclusive dialogue with the Mesa de Paro on December 2. The December 4 protests are part of ongoing actions to ensure the government pursues an agreement.
Five people were killed in the protests that began on November 21, and hundreds injured.