Beginning on August 19th, small farmers, miners and indigenous people from all over Colombia took to the streets, town squares, and highways to demand that current crisis of dispossession of lands and territories, the lack of quality health care and education, agrarian policies and trade agreements that continue to impoverish the Colombian people, and an infrastructure that favors foreign companies over local residents be addressed.
They were soon joined by coffee growers, fisherfolk, students, teachers, academics, health care workers, truckers, and labor unions, among others, and have organized in several major areas of the country. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 people currently camped out away from their homes and participating in these strikes.
The response to the strikes by public forces, particularly ESMAD - the riot police - have been excessive, to the extent that the Director of National Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, has promised an internal inquiry. These actions have disrespected the right to protest.
President Santos until last night had termed the strikes “weak” and “non-existent.” This morning, he finally acknowledged their existence and has taken some steps towards negotiations.
Msgr. Luís Augusto Castro, Archbishop of Tunja (an area at the heart of the protest), invited President Santos to “listen to the voices of the farmers... come closer to the strikes and see them with new eyes.”
We invite you to sign this petition, encouraging President Santos to negotiate with the representatives of the movement with an open mind for the improvement of their livelihood as Colombians. As the Archbishop reminded us, the strikes “can be resolved by doing justice, by welcoming and listening to their requests, for everyone’s well being, and for a more fair kind of production… they need to be listened to by those leading the country, those who have in their hands the possibility to move us from injustice to justice.”
(To stay up-to-date about the latest news of the strikes, check out our Storify page.)
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