Latin America

Colombia Update: “Veinte de Julio” (July 20th)

From Anthony Boynton in Bogotá

Tomorrow is Veinte de Julio (July 20th), one of the three independence days celebrated here in Colombia.

It is a legal holiday, and a day upon which the government usually organizes a military parade in Bogotá and a military air show. Tomorrow will be different because of the demonstrations scheduled here and in other cities. The military will have its ceremony at one of its bases in the city, and a mass demonstration against the government will converge on the city center from 23 different meeting points.

The strike committee will present a 10 point program of legislation to the country’s Congress, which will reconvene tomorrow. The ten points include a basic minimum income that would cover ten million Colombians for a period of seven months, a bill that guarantees zero tuition for public universities with resources from the national budget, repeal of Decree 1174 which gutted the country’s pension and labor laws, and implementation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommendations to reorganize, demilitarize and reform the police of Colombia in the wake of the massive human rights violations the police committed during the paro nacional and the country’s recent history.

Youth on the “primeras lineas” (front lines) in Colombia.

In addition to the strike committee’s demonstrations, the “mingas” of the country’s indigenous people and the “primeras lineas” will converge on the capital. The primearas lineas (the front lines) are the militant, but amorphous, porous, and poorly organized youth movement that has been at the vanguard of the protests here, but which has also been heavily infilitrated by the police and possibly by the ELN and FARc dissidents.

My impression is that the daytime demonstrations here will be large and peaceful, but at night there will be confrontations between the police and the military and militant youth. In Cali, the demonstrations will also be large, but the nighttime confrontations will likely be sharper. The southwest of the country is most likely going to continue to be the center of confrontations with the police and military. Demonstrations in the rest of the country are likely to be smaller, and confrontations are not as likely.

The press and the right wing and centrist political establishments have been working overtime to reduce turnout to the demonstrations by stressing the danger of violence, by demonizing the primeras lineas for being violent, by emphasizing the preparations to repress any violence, and by working through provacateurs to provoke violence.

On the other hand, the unions that dominate the strike committee have worked with the government to diminish the size of the demonstration by making a deal to improve the salaries of government employees by a few miserable percentage pints. The deal was announced just three days before the scheduled demonstrations.

Youth on the “primeras lineas” (front lines) in Colombia.

Categories: Latin America

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