COLOMBIA: Drivers Strike and Student Protests Shake the Country

Photo: Student protesters in Medellín throw molotov cocktails at riot police armored vehicle

By Felipe Vera

Last week, a national strike of professional drivers and a series of combative student protests against corruption and police repression shook the streets of Bogotá and Medellín.

On September 23, the National Association of Drivers of Colombia and the Drivers Union called for an indefinite national strike of professional transport workers in response to repressive anti-worker laws issued by the District Mobility Secretariat. Targeting drivers in all forms of transportation including truck drivers, taxis, and intermunicipal busses, the state will suspend drivers’ licenses for at least six months to a year if they have more than one traffic violation within a six-month period, in some cases even handing down lifetime bans. If drivers continue working with a suspended license, they can face serious criminal charges including prison time. The law has resulted in over 45,000 suspended licenses, leaving many workers without a source of income.

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“No More Sanctions, Let’s Enforce our Right to Work!”

On the same day as the initiation of the strike, a corruption scandal surfaced at the District University in Bogotá. The former director, Muñoz Prieto, misappropriated nearly $3 million in university funds for luxury vehicles, hotels, clothing, parties, and brothels. Outraged by this, the students took to the streets with combative actions for over a week. Revolutionary youth used stones and molotov cocktails in an attack on the Colombian Institute of Educational Credit and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX), a state institution hated by much of the Colombian people for indebting the families of young students through educational loans and charging high interest rates.

Riot police from the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) immediately attempted to violently repress the rebellious youth with force, but were met with fierce resistance. As protests expanded to other universities the ESMAD entered at least three university campuses, violating federal law in the process.

After initially erupting in Bogotá, the protests spread throughout the country in response to excessive force used against student protesters. In Medellín, an action was carried out in support of the combative youth in Bogotá, led by the Student Movement in Service of the People (MESP), the Revolutionary Youth League (LJR), and the Student Union of the People among others.

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Students in Medellín carry out combative action

Student demonstrators blocked a major road leading into campus, and when they were attacked with tear gas and water cannons, combative youth responded with stones, molotov cocktails, and homemade weapons. They chanted revolutionary slogans such as “the bullets you shot will return back to you,” and “to serve the people with all my heart, to be a shock troop of the revolution!”

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Students in Medellin block the street leading to campus
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Students fought back against ESMAD with molotov cocktails
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Student protesters throw stones at riot police in Medellín

As a result of the combative protests, the interior minister of Colombia, Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, proposed a bill that would several restrict the masses right to protest. However, this has not deterred the combative youth and has only strengthened them further, demonstrating once again the repressive role of the state and the necessity of revolutionary violence to combat it.

Follow  El Comunero Prensa for more coverage of revolutionary struggles in Colombia.