Colombia’s strike enters its second month, as state violence continues

Protesters in Colombia on 28 May 2021

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.

She added:

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: 

Main article image via screenshot/Primera Línea