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Date Thu, 3 Jun 2021 10:16:51 +0300

INTERVIEW WITH THE GRUPO LIBERTARIO VÍA LIBRE, FROM BOGOTÁ: ---- The Grupo Libertario Vía Libre is a political organization that operates in Bogotá, Colombia, founded on June 20, 2010. It inherits and is part of the tradition of social anarchism and organized worldwide and the rich and diverse history of popular struggles in Colombia, Latin America and the world. ---- Currently, Vía Libre acts on different social fronts and seeks to group anarchists under some principles and a common political program. Vía Libre develops its political practice in sectors such as students, women, sexual dissidents, the peasantry and urban workers. In addition, it projects, promotes and participates in processes linked to popular education, territorial work, anti-speciesism and environmentalism, human rights, urban art and solidarity with other struggles at the local and global level.

The first mobilizations that 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?

The bill presented by the government of Iván Duque del Centro Democrático assumed a neoliberal economic adjustment policy in the midst of the deep economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic and that meant a decrease in GDP for 2020 by -6.8%. This project, the third employer tax reform presented by the Uribista administration in three years in office, sought to reduce the fiscal deficit calculated at 35 billion Colombian pesos, by increasing direct and indirect taxes on the working population, maintaining the general model of large tax exemptions on companies and the bourgeoisie.

The background of this employer program was the historical public health crisis and an economic crisis similar to 1929, which has increased inequality, poverty reaching 42% of the population, unemployment hitting 15% and precarious work which leads 88% of workers to earn less than two times the minimum wage.

The bill soon met with broad rejection from the working population, and the April 28 movement, the seventh general strike movement against the government, managed to catalyze, in part through significant work of agitation, the strong rejection against the government. . Finally, due to pressure from the street, the government found itself in a minority in parliament, the leadership of its own party betrayed it, and on May 4 it was forced to withdraw the project and accept on the 5th of the same month the resignation of the Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, one of the strong men of the Uribe, conservative and evangelical coalition in power.

Banner against the tax reform of Iván Duque, in the National Strike of April 28, 2021, in Bogotá. The jump
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 upholds?

The truth is that the initial general demand for rejection of the tax reform was articulated early with a more open, diverse and disjointed set of social demands such as those mentioned, in addition to, for example, the neoliberal health reform project that also it was withdrawn on May 19. In addition, soon the great levels of police and para-police repression deployed against the movement put at the center the vindication of the victims of police violence and the rejection of state and para-state violence, which are linked to historical demands such as the dismantling of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad. (ESMAD) of the National Police or the end of the murder against leaders and social leaders.

In parallel, during the national protest days of November-December 2019, the National Unemployment Committee, a bureaucratic body mainly energized by the majority unions, developed a program that was later expanded during the crisis of 2020 and the protests of that year. Although it has been suggested that the mobilization obeys this program, which may contain important demands, this is imprecise since it is generally unknown by the majority of protesters and its development and sharing was absolutely reduced.

On the other hand, the previous struggle of state teachers against the return to face-to-face classes without sanitary conditions, of university students for free enrollment, of state workers for a state national specification, of indigenous communities, has joined in this situation. black and peasant women for agrarian support policies.

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?

There is a great opposition against the Duque government and since the national strike of November 21, 2019, the slogan from outside Duque has become general. However, the demand to leave the government has not been installed sufficiently and this is an element that is not considered in the more specific demands, at least in the immediate term.

On the one hand, there are the centrist sectors of the so-called Coalition of Hope, which have tried without success to represent a movement that they had condemned and repressed from the local governments. On the other hand, there is the social democratic leadership of Gustavo Petro and the electoral movement Colombia Humana. They are popular with many protesters, both among trade union and social organizations, as well as among popular youth who are having their first political experience. However, although they have a certain media role, they have not played a relevant role in the organization and development of the protest. Petro himself, who has been called by Uribe senators the "greatest anarchist in the country",

The left-wing political parties have played a role at this juncture, especially in the framework of union or student activity, but they have not led such an explosive and inorganic movement. Although it operates against a background of many years of community activity and organization, in many local activities soccer bars or groups of friends from the neighborhoods have played a more important role than traditional social organizations.

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?

These situations are very interesting, but so far they are short and fragmentary. There is a clear element of rejection by important sectors of popular youth to the Police, which is expressed in the attacks against police facilities such as the Immediate Attention Commands (CAI), taking up elements of the revolt against the police brutality of 9 and on September 10, 2020, after the cruel murder of Javier Ordoñez, a movement whose repression resulted in at least 13 deaths.
The level of mobilization varies greatly at the regional and local level, especially the situation in the department of Valle del Cauca in Cali or Yumbo due to the so-called points of resistance with more or less continuous blockades of streets. Also sectors of transport workers and businesswomen such as truck drivers or taxi drivers made roadblocks in the second week of mobilization, with their own demands of a more corporate nature.
In general, the idea of spontaneous activity and the practice of permanent mobilization prevail, although the forms of self-organization are still weak. Faced with the 2019 protest where local popular assemblies later dissolved were developed in an embryonic way, the levels of community self-organization seem weaker at this juncture, although experiences in this regard have been developed in Cali, some popular neighborhoods and public universities.

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?

Indigenous peoples have had a diverse participation in the situation and have generally received a racist response from the business press and conservative sectors that portray them as uncivilized. On the one hand, sectors of the Misak people organized in the Indigenous Authorities of the South West (AISO) have developed symbolic actions focused on the debate of historical memory, such as the demolition of statues of colonial conquerors such as Sebastián de Belalcázar in Cali or Gonzalo Jiménez de Quezada in Bogota. On the other hand, indigenous peoples of the Amazon region, the Caribbean and the center of the country have participated in various mobilizations in the large national capitals and led some protest activities of their own.

At the same time, a majority Nasa indigenous sector from the department of Cauca organized in the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC) had been developing since mid-April a struggle for the recovery of land in the hands of landowners and companies that it called "Minga inward". Since the beginning of May, the Minga inwardly unfolded outward, and they began to block the Pan-American highway in conjunction with peasant organizations and black communities, partly due to national demands, but also demanding compliance with previous agreements of the national government with rural sectors. In this same period, a group from the CRIC moved to Cali, as it had done in the second half of 2020, to participate in the protest and eventually the blockades.

The indigenous guard of Cauca in the mobilizations of May 2021.
Xavi Suler
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?

There is an anarchist presence in the social outbreak, although it is still very weak and marginal. While in November 2019 we achieved momentary leadership in some popular neighborhoods such as the Guacamayas neighborhood of Bogotá and in the 2018 student movement we did the same in some humanities careers in public universities, we think that now our incidence is less clear.

However, for a decade the presence of red, purple and black and black flags has become a little more common in union, student and neighborhood marches, although many times we are in relative solitude. There is also the presence of songs such as arribas que struggles and paints, and the constant activity of many colleagues in various social sectors and protests.

We think that organized anarchists have the task of continuing to encourage this popular movement with interesting libertarian elements, precisely to strengthen its anarchic elements, of democratic, deliberative and direct self-organization, to strengthen the libertarian socialist elements of demands and political reflections and the internationalist, intersectional and revolutionary spirit and symbolism.

The Colombian security forces have a long history of repression and violation of human rights. How is the government's repression being?

The repression against the protest, especially against the roadblocks, soon combined the "legal" elements of the use of police force with the irregular and illegal elements so typical of the Colombian State. Thus, on the one hand we have the anti-riot action of the available force, the national police and ESMAD, applied with an extraordinarily high level of severity, which has been reinforced with the call for military aid announced by the national government since last May 1 and the presence of Army troops in areas such as the Valley or the Atlantic and in various roadblocks.

On the other hand, we have the presence of unidentified civilian agents and the shots, including machine gun bursts, fired against the protesters by the Police itself in overflow situations in the neighborhoods of Bogotá or Cali, of which there are 133 documented cases. And we also have the action of para-police and paramilitary forces, with shots fired against protesters in Cali, Pereira or Medellín, fired from cars or buildings.

According to Indepaz records for May 20 there are 47 fatalities of the police and parapolice repression. In addition, Temblores and Indepaz registered for May 16 30 victims of ocular violence, 1,055 irregular arrests, at least 362 injured, a total of 2,110 cases of violence exerted by the public force are counted and the Ombudsman's Office registered 548 reports of disappearance people for May 9. In addition, it has been denounced the application of illegal procedures to extend the arrests, the occurrence of raids on homes without a judicial warrant, the launching of tear gas on homes, the application of cruel treatment and torture against the detainees, intermittent cuts of the electricity service on areas affected by repression.

Image by photojournalist Andrés Cea - El Salto
We read countless reports of sexual abuse and violence against women. Is it a common practice among the security forces?

Yes, sadly it is. The State Security Forces, the police and the military are made up by an overwhelming majority of men with sexist values, the high hierarchy of the police and military is exclusively male, the members of these organizations live within a violent and harassing patriarchal body and their relations with civilians they are also marked by all kinds of expressions of male dominance.

In police repression, gender-based violence and acts against women and sexual dissidents are common, and reports of abuse are repeated at police stations, trucks, and detention units. Military activity is even worse, because terror against women is used as another weapon in the fight against insurgents, as a strategy of war.

At the current juncture there have been at least 16 cases of sexual violence against female protesters and 3 open cases of gender violence.

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?

These news are comforting and show us the greatness and beauty of internationalist solidarity. Although many of these demonstrations have been called by Colombians abroad, already students or political exiles, there has always been an important participation of people from the most diverse origins and geographies in support of the social struggle in the region and denouncing government repression. .

The international efforts to disseminate information, denounce the repression, discussion of the national situation in different areas, symbolic and logistical support for the victims, financial support for the campaigns to purchase implements and food, pressure on the media and politicians to That they clarify their position on this serious situation, as well as actions of pressure on the Colombian State before embassies and delegations, are very valuable.

Our situation is difficult, but broader, continuous and sustained internationalist efforts are vital because the situation of popular struggles in Myanmar, Kurdistan, Western Sahara or Palestine is also dramatic. However, it is also important that the social struggle in Colombia feed the various local popular struggles, and the best of our experience of mobilization allows us to strengthen the organizations and social and popular movements of the world just as the indignados and the movement did a decade ago. May 15.

Grupo Libertario Vía Libre

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