On 28 May, Colombia’s national strike moved into its second month. There have been daily protests across the country since late April, and people have hit the streets again today to mark the one-month anniversary.
Human rights group Temblores reported on 25 May that there had been 3,155 acts of police violence since 28 April, including 43 alleged murders. Human Rights Watch’s Americas director José Vivanco, meanwhile, insisted that the organisation had “received credible reports of 63 deaths”.
A context of intense inequality and violence
Phoenix Media Co-op spoke recently to Colombian teacher and campaigner Martha Lisbeth Alfonso Jurado. And she described “a very delicate human rights situation – a humanitarian emergency”. Explaining the causes of the unrest, she blamed the country’s:
deep structural and historical inequality, which people can’t bear any longer.
Another organiser, Yuraq Sani, told us about the context of violence leading up to the strike. The state, she insisted, has allowed the murder of countless “social leaders, educators, artists, [and] peace deal signatories” in recent years.
Spontaneity and hope
Martha Alfonso spoke to Phoenix Media Co-op again as the protests moved into their second month. She explained:
The strike consists of two main sectors: the organised union workers… [and] the other group, which I think makes up the majority of those on strike, that has no real organisation or representation in the political process.
In this context, she said:
There are days when there are more protests, riots, police attacks, and blockades in some areas, and then the next week in other places. The strike has been happening in a very spontaneous and regionalised way.
It’s a very complex moment, but also one of great hope that this will effectively allow us to generate social transformation in the country.
You can see some of the images from the start of the strike on 28 May below:
#ParoNacional28M✊🏾| En Bogotá avanza movilización con Mamás Primera Línea. Exigen garantías para la protesta, que el gobierno escuche al pueblo y que cese la violencia y represión contra las comunidades movilizadas pic.twitter.com/qSzy3V8gVx— Colombia Informa (@Col_Informa) May 28, 2021
#ParoNacional28M✊🏾| Panorama en estos momentos desde Popayán. Cientos de personas se movilizan por las calles de la capital del Cauca para exigir al gobierno nacional que cese la violencia y represión contra la protesta social pic.twitter.com/ZusVVv4mpc— Colombia Informa (@Col_Informa) May 28, 2021
Main article image via screenshot/Primera Línea