By Carlos Aznarez – May 31, 2021
Cecilia Zamudio is a Colombian writer, poet, journalist and artist, and like many of her compatriots lives these days with great concern for what means the repressive escalation of the government of Iván Duque, but also with deep satisfaction to the patriotism that the Colombian people starring a national productive strike that has passed the month of duration, With her we talked about all these contingencies, in order to further sharpen the efforts of internationalist solidarity with the struggle of that people.
Day after day, Uribism in government continues to develop a repressive policy that reaches figures of dead, wounded and disappeared that are typical of the classic military dictatorships suffered in the 70’s and 80’s. How do you see this serious situation?
In the last few days the Colombian repressive forces, both the police and their para-police, paramilitary tools and the army have been repressing in different parts of Colombia, in Tuluá and Usme, in Cali in particular, with several people killed by the police and hundreds wounded. It must also be said that the police are perpetrating forced disappearances, as a practice of state terrorism. They arrest hundreds of demonstrators during the national strike, but not only do they arrest them, they also disappear them. These are people whose whereabouts are unknown. Some have been found floating in the rivers of Colombia, dismembered, their heads in bags, their bodies with signs of torture. This is the harsh reality of state terrorism that the Colombian people are facing at this moment.
Let us go deeper into this last point. We have been reporting on the investigation carried out on a supermarket chain “Exito”, where apparently some premises were used for torture. Is there any connivance on the part of the businessmen in this sense?
We have observed throughout the national strike how, in reality, this is a class struggle. What we see is that the working class of Colombia is in a national productive strike claiming its rights to a dignified life, protesting against aberrant levels of exploitation, protesting against the capitalist plundering perpetrated by the multinationals but also by the Colombian bourgeoisie. There are a series of working class demands that challenge the reign of exploitation and plunder that enriches the Colombian and transnational bourgeoisie. Effectively, the oligarchs have put themselves at the service of repression. The pressure is not only exerted by the state with its repressive mechanisms, but also by the private armies of the bourgeoisie. We saw it with the armed bourgeoisie of Cali, who went out to shoot at the Afro-descendant and peasant Indigenous Minga. It is evident with the “Exito” department stores, which in Cali loaned their stores and shopping centers to the police, who were entering and leaving with trucks, leaving detainees. The population denounced these events with anguish, the mothers warned of detained children, that they heard screams of terror as they were torturing people inside the store. Then, we see how the private company “Exito”, whose owners are French capitalists of the Casino Group and another shareholder are Colombian bourgeoisie. We see how they provided the stores as torture centers for the repressive forces, as denounced by the community, to carry out tortures and forced disappearances.
In this regard, Colombia has a long history of repression, the ESMAD is a symbol of that. What is happening now with the dismemberments, was also experienced in the times of Uribe and Santos, when the paramilitaries entered the towns with chainsaws and committed real massacres. Colombia has a very high level of repression, it has constantly crossed the red line, there are no limits. I ask you, is this impunity with which the Colombian regime acts based on the support given by the United States? It is clear that the pro-Uribe government feels secure to do these things in the light of day, since the whole world is watching, but nobody at the international level is intervening.
They are acting as you say in broad daylight and nobody says anything, neither the United States, nor the European Union, nor the international organizations, all are completely silent about the Colombian state’s extermination of the population. We are talking about hundreds of people detained and disappeared in less than a month, this is extermination. Extermination against social protest, something very serious, which in the history of our continent has no parallel, unless we look at dictatorships such as Videla’s in Argentina. The Colombian people are experiencing this repressive situation, as if it were a dictatorial regime, but masquerading as a democracy. Absolute impunity reigns for repression, torture, terror and intimidation of the population so that they cannot fight. To fight for a dignified life, to fight for their labor rights, for their rights to demand and protest. There is no right to life that is respected in Colombia. The state itself is the one that exercises homicidal repression. Why is there this complicit silence at the international level? The answer is simple, because the Colombian regime is functional to the capitalist plundering of the country. It allows the multinationals to perpetuate the greatest unimaginable plundering of Colombia’s resources, plundering of natural and human resources, super-exploited labor. They also perpetrate the greatest capitalist plundering at the lowest possible cost, which is achieved though extermination. That is why Colombia is their favorite regime and friend par excellence of U.S. and European imperialism. That is why they are not going to say anything. Besides, why has the Colombian state been perpetuating repression against the population for decades? Very simple: because the U.S. empire is behind it. The United States maintains an occupation of 7 military bases. From their military bases they train their paramilitary forces to torture the Colombian people in the countryside and in the cities.
Let’s go a little bit to the popular movement. We are a month into the strike and “the strike will not stop”, which is very important. Every day there are mobilizations, something that we saw in Colombia in 2019 and in Chile with the revolt has been set in motion: the youth not only mobilize, but they are producing a cultural revolution. Culture, with a striking creativity, is alongside all the mobilizations, in Cali, Medellin, Popayan or in Bogota itself, how do you analyze this important initiative that the youth sector of the population are carrying out?
To speak of the national strike, we have spoken of the repression unleashed by the Colombian state. But it is true that we have the other side, which is the vitality and great hope that the Colombian people are giving with the capacity to organize, the solidarity that the working class organized to sustain this strike, and confronting so much repression in Colombia for a month. So this cannot be achieved without organizational coordination and deep solidarity of the working class. Art plays a very important role in this scenario, it is an incentive for the struggle. Look at the giant murals, painted on floors and walls. You see theatrical works, musicals, which are an incentive for life. They are like fuel to keep going. There are community kitchens organized by the youth and all the working class involved. It is true that the youth have the strength to be in the first, second and third line, to be able to protect the demonstrations from the onslaught of the police and their ESMAD squad and other repressive forces, the youth are at the front to protect the demonstrations and the points of resistance. But there is also a whole popular fabric that is not only the youth. Moms, grandmothers and people of all ages are participating in the popular kitchens. We see a strong empowerment of the population in a Colombia that has been united. The people have always fought for their rights and have always been vital and creative. This vitality and creativity is fuel for the social and political struggle in Colombia.
Another issue that emerges in Latin America every time there is a revolt is how the media works to intoxicate. We see it not only in Colombia, we see it in the media in Argentina, Chile or in Uruguay. What is your opinion about the media’s behavior? How is the counter-information organized in the midst of so much media terrorism?
The major mass disinformation media are dedicated to misinforming about the struggle and the demands of the peoples. They are dedicated to silence the struggles, because the mainstream media belong to the ruling class, to the bourgeois class. This is so in Colombia, Argentina, Chile, in all the countries you have mentioned and it is so in the whole world, whoever owns the means of production owns the means of diffusion and telecommunication. Therefore, it is the voice of a class that makes itself heard through that media. It is natural that the owners of that media are not willing to report that there is a gigantic national strike, that the people have power when they carry out a demonstration of this magnitude. Nor do they wish to report that the road blockades are being carried out because they are necessary to prevent capitalist plunder. They do not report on the community kitchens, the cultural fabric or the great solidarity and organizational capacity of the working class. They do not wish to report that, evidently because they do not want these immense and gigantic demonstrations of the working class to serve as an example for the working classes of other countries. Evidently it is conscious censorship. They have not forgotten the class division of society and are systematically waging a war on the working class. As you say, a war of disinformation. That is one reason, the other is what I was saying before. There is a silence about what is happening in Colombia, because in Colombia capitalism expresses itself in the paroxysm of its horror. It is a plundered country par excellence, health, education, pensions, everything is privatized, it is a country where the state is absolutely repressive in order to cut off the head of any social and political demands. It is the very paradigm of capitalist horror. Evidently, the international media are not going to report that the population is rebelling against this. Nor will they report when the state, functional to the ruling class, represses the population with the worst state terrorism. The Colombian state and the Colombian bourgeois and transnational class try to suffocate social protest through state terrorism and through lies, media manipulation and silence. Disinformation is another weapon used by the ruling class against the working class.
Can alternative and counter-information media help to break this information siege?
Counterinformation includes truthful information, alternative information is a very difficult work carried out by the people from below. It is a task that the working class carries out with great effort, dividing their working days. It seems that the workdays are not 24 hours but 58 hours because of the amount of effort that has to be made. It is a great task of little ants against gigantic monopolies, but it has to be done. Otherwise the people are murdered in silence. For this reason, we call from Colombia for internationalist solidarity with the Colombian people in this important and histrionic moment, at the level of what this great national productive strike means. This is very significant for Colombia, for Latin America and for the world. For the working class as well, because we have worse years ahead of us, of deepening exploitation by the bourgeoisie at world level. That is why we call for international solidarity and also so that we are not abandoned alone, because the repressive levels are genocidal and we need that oxygen, that support. That is why the call is for help to stand in solidarity with the Colombian people.
The patriarchy and its cruel face is present in Colombia, we have first seen the protagonism of women, with marches in Cali demanding rights, respect and above all repudiating the vile violations that are taking place in police stations and in detentions. Could you tell us about this reality?
The Colombian police have perpetrated at least 21 rapes against women demonstrators, some of them minors. It is important to be aware of this because they are the ones who dare to denounce. Let’s not forget that in Colombia to report to the police can cost you and your family members their lives. So, these are the cases that are known and, moreover, there are the women who have been detained and disappeared. We do not know what tortures the police may have carried out against them. Rape is part of these tortures. Patriarchy and capitalism are in symbiosis in these repressive processes against the peoples. Also, as you mentioned, the resistance has in large part the face of women. Women showed courage in the second and third lines. In the pedagogical and artistic workshops, in the community kitchens, in the Afro and peasant resistance, women are present with the whole of the Colombian people and the working class. Of course there are specific violations by the repressive forces against women using sexual violence as a weapon of state terrorism.
We do not have a crystal ball, but there is a question that always arises, after these revolts, like the one in Chile, for example, that after a year and a half of revolt, Piñera is still there, the issue is whether this popular uprising is seeking the departure of the Duque government or it is only about achieving very important demands, which are denied by the regime.
The most important thing about this national productive strike is the level of consciousness that the working class has managed to acquire day by day in the mobilizations. I believe that it is in the mobilization that the working class forges its consciousness, raises it and perceives how things are, how the exploiting class reacts when the working class demands rights. These are all long historical processes that cause a lot of pain to the working class but that also qualify it. It is important to capitalize on this and I believe that this is being done. For example, in the case of the productive strike in Colombia there were important blockades, such as the port of Buenaventura, in the Pan-American Highway. There is a growing awareness of how society functions and what things are important for the bourgeoisie, what is the functionality of the states in relation to those who plunder a country. Those who exploit will not surrender their privileges easily and the working class, the exploited class, will have to fight for its emancipation. This has always been so, it was so throughout history, social conquests were achieved with considerable struggle. That is the consciousness that has to be strengthened to be able to advance with great steps, historic steps.
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