The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today expressed its growing concerns over the escalation of pre-emptive action by armed forces against protesters across the country and the use of excessive violence that has left protesters dead and hundreds injured.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin condemned the use of excessive force by the military and police forces and attempts by the government to silence the growing dissent amongst the working class: “Right now in Colombia the right to engage in peaceful protest is under attack. Over the past week we’ve witnessed a government that prefers to violently repress protesters instead of holding a meaningful dialogue.
“The ITF condemns the Colombian government’s use of lethal force against protesters and the suppression of peaceful demonstrations across the country. It is another worrying example of the deterioration of human rights in the country,” said Crumlin.
The protests began last week when over 250,000 people marched against the government’s economic reforms, police violence and corruption.
Unions, students and civil organisations have now created a National Strike Committee to centralise their demands and a mechanism for dialogue with the government.
“The Colombian government has tried and failed to repress the people’s democratic right to protest, and now it is imperative that the government sits down with the National Strike Committee and address their demands, there is no other option,” said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton.
“Until the government engages in meaningful political, economic and social reform and listens to the people’s demands seriously, people will continue to protest and take to the streets.
"It is time for President Duque to take concrete steps to meet the Colombian people’s legitimate demands for equality, social justice, transparency, the restoration of union and labour rights, and an end to killings of indigenous and union leaders," said Cotton.
Edgar Díaz, ITF Latin America acting regional secretary, commented: "Colombian unions are not alone in this fight, the ITF and the international trade union movement stand in full solidarity with them fighting to guarantee better working conditions and rights for the Colombian people.”