Striking for peace in Colombia

photo: Twitter/CUTColombia

Working people took to the streets in their thousands yesterday in defence of the peace agreement in Colombia. Unions called a national strike in response to proposals currently being discussed in parliament that would undermine the peace process and give unjustified extraordinary powers to President Iván Duque.

“The hope that accompanied the peace process is beginning to turn sour. Since 2018 alone, over 500 human rights defenders have been assassinated in a conflict that continues to devastate the country’s most marginalised communities. The actions of President Duque’s government have confiscated the local ownership of the peace process and generated distrust among all parties,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

Progress towards peace has slowed considerably recently and negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) are at a standstill. Colombia remains the most unequal country on the South American continent and has levels of land concentration (the concentration of land ownership in the hands of the richest minority) ranking among the most extreme in the world. People’s freedom of association and collective bargaining rights are frequently undermined and it is the most dangerous country on the continent in which to be a trade unionist. While these underlying issues are recognised as fuelling the conflict, the current government has shown little commitment to addressing them.

Meanwhile, unions warn that certain aspects of the National Development Plan currently being discussed at parliament will make matters worse. The labour, fiscal and pension reforms it contains would result in more inequality and increase precarious work. The Plan’s overreach is further exposed by its proposal to grant extraordinary powers to the President.

A broad coalition of civil society organisations joined with Colombian unions in calling for yesterday’s national strike. At international level, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) is mobilising affiliates for solidarity actions across the region and the ITUC has sent a letter highlighting these issues to the Colombian government.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 02 53 or by e-mail: press@ituc-csi.org