The Libertarian Students and Workers Union (ULET, Unión Libertaria Estudiantil y del Trabajo) is a trade union organization and therefore openly public. Its first objective is the defense of its affiliates; the rights of workers and students; and the freedom of the people. (https://www.facebook.com/ULETsindical)
It is organized under the anarcho-syndicalist principles : anarchism as its base and means, and libertarian communism as it goals. Their tools of struggle are mutual support, assembly, federalism, self-management, horizontality, and direct action.
The ULET – AIT is made up of people of different shapes, colors, nationalities, thoughts, behaviors, and tastes, who are grouped under the same principles and are organized to defend their rights, fight for a free world, united by solidarity and towards a social and economical self-managed.society of free people. It is a member of the International Workers Association (AIT – IWA).
The first mobilizations in Colombian began on April 28, demanded the elimination of the Sustainable Solidarity Law project. What does this Law consist of and why has it been the trigger for massive protests?
This law is only the way they have called the new tax reform that they want to apply to the Colombian people. This included many taxes for independent workers [many people, especially the poors, don’t have formal work so are working as « independent »], the products of the family basket were taxed with up to 19% VAT (Value Added Tax) [while it is 0 to 5% currently] and it was proposed to increase the priceof infant milk formula for babies under six months of age, something totally inhumane in a country where children are starving. In addition to the increase in the price of food, the price of fuel and even funeral services’ price increased. Precarious living conditions were further threatened by the law promoted by the ruling party. This, together with job insecurity and inequality are the trigger for what is currently being experienced in Colombia, an atmosphere of rebellion and protest.
The origin of the protest was overcome from the first moment, adding from the demand for the end of femicide, the opposition of mega-mining or fracking projects, respect for indigenous peoples or student demands. What are the demands that the movement upholdss ?
It is asked to overturn the health reform (which today, May 22, was already filed). One of the main demands is the reform of the police force, since it has a long record of human rights violations that range from arbitrary detentions, to rapes, disappearances and murders.
Indigenous peoples ask that their territory and traditions be respected, as well as health services since they have been badly hit by the current pandemic On the other hand, there is a general demand for decent working conditions: in Colombia, a Senator earns more than 30 times the minimum wage earned by a worker.
Another big problem is the agriculture sector, the signing of Free Trade Agreements with various countries has led to the importation of many food products, generating a crisis in the peasant sector. Therefore, this union asks for better ways to get its products and the elimination of these import dynamics.
One of the demands is the resignation of right-wing Iván Duque. Is this rejection of the government being capitalized on by the opposition of Gustavo Petro? Or are the protests far from political parties?
The protests respond to popular clamor and collective instinct and are not subject to political parties that have seen in this process an opportunity to proselytize.
We see images and read stories of uprising neighborhoods, with a high level of mobilization and in which the police forces have even been expelled. How are these places being organized? Have new structures been created that allow neighborhood self-organization or did they already exist before?
The neighborhoods are organized through the various political groups found in the territories and these in turn allow articulation with the residents of the neighborhoods. The spaces have a community pot, artistic groups and front-line groups ready to clash with the police. These spaces are maintained with the solidarity of those who inhabit them and are the product of political and protest processes generated over the years.
In places like Cali, we have been able to see indigenous peoples flocking to the city to join the marches. What are your demands and how is your participation in the protests?
They participate with food, participation in the mobilization on security issues and with the dissemination of their knowledge since here in Colombia many people have great respect for the ancestral wisdom that these peoples possess. Indigenous people protest for their rights as native peoples and to keep their territory by expelling extractivist projects away.
In addition to this, they ask that they not be criminalized since they are often labeled as guerrillas, terrorists or drug traffickers.
Other demands are health and access roads.
Although the protests have a very broad ideological framework, we see a strong participation of anarchist groups. What role is anarchism having in the mobilizations?
Since the inhabitants of a neighborhood or territory decide to organize themselves without depending on any political party, they are acting under the anarchist philosophy and the participation of groups related to said proposal is given way.
Participation consists of joining hands to carry out organizational activities, manage mobilizations and maintain the horizontality of the spaces.
The Colombian security forces have a long history of repression and violation of human rights. How is the government’s repression being?
The government’s repression consists of sending riot police forces and the repression is physical and psychological. In a demonstration, people can be injured due to loss of eyes, sexual abuse, disappearance and murder. In many protest sites, they have opted to cut off the power service, leaving the streets without electricity and starting to shoot firearms at the protesters.
Another strategy is to pass in private vehicles without any distinction from the police and assassinate protesters, they have even become accomplices of inhabitants of upper-class neighborhoods who go out to shoot at the protesters
We read countless reports of sexual abuse and violence against women. Is it a common practice among security forces?
Yes, it is a common practice among the armed forces of the State. They have been doing the same for many years, in addition to rapes and femicides, cases of physical abuse against women have been reported in the families of the men who make up the ranks of these institutions.
Despite all this, they enjoy impunity.
Demonstrations and other displays of international solidarity are taking place from outside Colombia. Does this news reach you? What can we do from abroad to support your fight?
The news reaches us and they have filled us with strength, we are grateful that they feel our pain and our rebellion. We have received great support from South American countries and Europe, especially in Spain. We invite you to continue with the boycot, to spread our complaints.
It repairs he heart to read a message from other lands while each night we are counting our deads . Share and spread
En français http://cnt-ait.info/2021/05/31/ulet-ait/