By Julio César Londoño, EL ESPECTADOR, May 21, 2021

 (Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Strike has overwhelmed all of us: the Strike Committee organized a march to last one day and we are now going on a month. They were hoping to mobilize 500,000 people, and now there are millions “fighting the good fight”; community kitchens, mothers on the front lines, public carnivals every day, a thousand performances, the Philharmonic “arranges” the indigenous hymn, Carlos Vives is playing the cold sweat song “la gota fría”, there are debates throughout the country, Zapateiro threatens to bring order in 24 hours or he will quit (48 hours later, he did stop quitting and bringing order), the vandals burned the cities, a helicopter opened fire over Buga, the Mayors, the Governors, and the Police stood together with the decent people, who behaved very badly and were organizing safaris against the Indigenous Minga[1]. The President made decisions that would be characteristic of a sergeant and ordered “the deployment of the entire operational capacity of the Police.” Ajúa! (YeeHaw!)

In contrast, Felipe, “top line” of Dignity Hill in Cali, read the moment acutely and with good sense: “It’s not a strike, it’s an explosion.” That resonated in the country and in the world, and because of that, it was illuminating. And that sounds confusing because it’s polyphonic; we all have something to scream about. And hurt, of course. Growing hurts.

The tragicomic: two reforms that didn’t reform anything went down, A Minister that seemed to be working hard to overthrow the government, and an ornamental Foreign Minister that was replaced by an ornamental Vice President.

The beautiful: hundreds of thousands of young people, confronted a regime whose methods scandalized the world, uses stones and tin shields; they put the big themes of public policy on the table and jumped, in a matter of hours, from being socially marginalized to the first line in the history of the country.

The miserable: there is no place for them at the dialog table. They have killed them, they have raped them, they have righteous claims and they have aroused tremendous fervor, but they have no place at the table. In reality, the table itself is an offence for the police state regime.

The thick red line goes through the blockades: the government demands that they be raised as the zero conditional of any negotiation. But those in the “first line” say that lifting the blockades completely would leave them very exposed. There are cameras and citizen accompaniment, and a dead demonstrator in those areas would make a lot of noise. But if the “black hand” would catch him alone later in his own neighborhood, the Police would say that it was just some drug traffickers settling scores. End of story.

The solution is to lift the blockades, continue the protests through other channels, and select points of concentration that have international oversight. With the exception of the Archdiocese of Cali and the Governor’s Office in Cauca, the demonstrators have no confidence in the national authorities. (And they have plenty of reasons.)

A basic road map: 1) Guarantees of no attacks by Police at the points of resistance, and of no prosecution of the demonstrators. 2) Lifting the blockades. 3) International observers at the points of concentration of the demonstrators. 4) Dialog tables among the demonstrators to identify: a) problems that need to be resolved locally, b) proposals for national proceedings, c) representatives of the young people in a broadened Strike Committee.

The other path, the path of provoking the demonstrators, finding those responsible for the vandalism, insisting on the conspiracy theory, inciting the racism and the class hatred, escalating the massacre, blood flowing in the streets, and aborting the protests and the complaints of the people once and for all, will only serve to fertilize the next social explosion, one that will, without doubt, be much more violent than this one.

[1] The Minga is a march by indigenous people.

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