Canadian unions stand in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of Colombian workers and citizens peacefully demonstrating since the April 28 launch of a General Strike against tax reform. The reform would have disproportionately impact the poorest people by eliminating subsidies on some public services, taxing pensions, and freezing public sector wages.
The Colombian government has responded with excessive force in the deployment of the military and police with the widespread use of live firearms, rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters. As of May 6, human rights groups report the violent death of 37 people, 1,708 cases of abusive use of force, 26 victims of eye injuries, 234 victims of physical violence and 934 arbitrary detentions.
That President Iván Duque was forced to withdraw the regressive tax reform plan is a victory for poor and middle-class citizens and the civil society protesters, but it does not absolve the Government of Colombia from taking responsibility for the violence and holding accountable the perpetrators of the human rights violations.
Canadian unions condemn this violence and support the legitimate demands of the Colombian people for:
- The demilitarization of the urban areas and cities.
- The dismantling of the Colombian national police riot control unit (known by its Spanish acronym ESMAD).
- Punishment for those responsible for the brutal repression against the demonstrations.
- Guarantees for the right of peaceful protest.
- Start of negotiations over the Unified Emergency Plan with the National Strike Committee.
Workers everywhere deserve to live and work with dignity, and exercise their rights without fear of reprisals and state repression.