Latin American Federation of Journalists
A new opposition coalition challenges the hard-line regime of President Alvaro Uribe for its devastating economic policies and systematic violations of freedoms. A general strike has been called for August 12th.
Leaders of trade unions political organisations, the peace movement and representatives of vast sectors of Colombian civil society ? including peasant farmers, students and afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples ? have come together in a new coalition that may have the potential to transform the political landscape of Colombia.
A joint declaration made by the new coalition condemned the dramatic increase in repressive policies under the government of rightwing President Alvaro Uribe Velez and pledged to oppose him in the coming general strike and other campaigns.
The statement was signed at a meeting on August 1st by nine members of the Colombian Congress, the leaders of the CUT and CTC trade union federations, leaders of various individual trade unions, human rights activists and leaders of numerous political parties and progressive political coalitions such as the ?Social and Political Front?.
In addition to pledging total support for the National General Strike this coming August 12th, the alliance promised to support the Agricultural Workers? March on the same day, the campaign for ?Active Abstention? in the forthcoming referendum and to work for closer unity of all progressive forces in the run up to local and regional elections next October.
The coalition has said that they their principle aims are to fight to defend public services, natural resources and national sovereignty in the face of President Uribe?s regressive legislative onslaught and increasing US intervention.
According to the statement, “The economic policies that the current government are applying are greatly reducing the quality of life of the people and are leading the nation towards ruin. The most obvious manifestations of this are the alarming levels of unemployment, poverty and social disintegration plus the destruction of the trade unions and the elimination of labour guarantees”.
It goes on to talk about the harsh measures that the government has implemented against the agricultural sector and the privatisation process that it is currently imposing on public entities such as the telecommunications company, Telecom, the state petroleum company, Ecopetrol, and the higher education service SENA.
Furthermore the coalition says that alongside of these devastating economic policies “the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez has installed the most authoritarian regime in the history of Colombia [leading to] systematic violations of freedoms and civil and democratic rights and the flagrant abuses of human rights”.
The declaration goes on to state that despite the current difficult situation “we will continue to persist in searching for peace and a negotiated political solution to the armed conflict”. It also says that although President Uribe is trying to “impose political reforms that have as their central objective the exclusion of democratic political alternatives” that they will not permit this.
In summing up the new statement calls on all sectors of civil society to unite in opposition to President Uribe by supporting the upcoming protests and working hard for the unity of all progressive forces.
For their part the Colombian government and military high command have accused those of participating of being guerrillas in civilian clothes who are taking orders from the armed opposition organisations. This puts the coalition members in grave danger of assassination by paramilitary death squads who have already labelled many people opposed to the government as legitimate military targets.