Colombia’s trade unions began a general strike on 28 April, in response to a bill seeking to increase taxes on basic foodstuffs and essential services like water and electricity, and to other social policies threatening to widen inequality, including healthcare “reforms”.
The tax and health plans have been dropped, and the finance minister of Colombia’s right-wing government has resigned, but the struggle has widened into what looks like a powerful social uprising involving many different popular constituencies.
Colombia, whose population is not much smaller than the UK’s, is the world’s 16th most unequal country in terms of income (the UK is 100th and the US 51st). In 2019 almost 30% of its people lived on less than £4 a day, and the pandemic has made things worse. The tax changes were supposed to fund the expansion of a basic income scheme introduced last year, but at the expense of working people rather than the rich.
Despite retreating, the government of President Iván Duque Márquez has met the protests with heavy repression. There have been dozens killed, hundreds injured and hundreds disappeared; and dozens of women sexually abused at hands of security forces.
The Public Services International trade union federation and the LabourStart website have launched an online campaign against the repression in Colombia. Please sign and circulate.
On 25 May International Viewpoint published an article from the Movimiento Ecosocialista de Colombia: ‘The popular uprising is bringing down the neoliberal and militarist regime’.
At this stage we can’t assess the analysis made in the Movimiento Ecosocialista article; but it gives an overview of events and of the movement, and interesting arguments about what socialists should be proposing.
The article begins with a quotation from a Portuguese socialist academic: “What is happening in Colombia is not a Colombian problem, it is our problem, that of the democrats of the world”.