Tuesday, November 30

Protests in Colombia: The War of Attrition | Opinion

Although the National Unemployment Committee had suspended the demonstrations, protests continued in some parts of Colombia.  The image corresponds to Bogotá.
Although the National Unemployment Committee had suspended the demonstrations, protests continued in some parts of Colombia. The image corresponds to Bogotá.NATHALIA ANGARITA / Reuters

Between April 28 and until mid-June of this year there were protests throughout Colombia, all within the framework of what is known as the national strike. During all those weeks an electrocardiogram was given: days of high protests with intervals of low activity. In some cases, these intervals were lived in the midst of violence. In the end, at the worst of the third peak of the pandemic and, given the wear and tear of the mobilizations, the strike committee chose to pause and call for demonstrations on July 20, an emblematic day for Colombia as it celebrates its independence.

What was seen in the middle of the pause of the demonstrations is what is called a war of attrition. The Government chose three lines of action. On the one hand, criminalize protests and apply high police violence, in fact, according to social organizations, the victims of repression exceed 40, in addition, almost twenty sexual assaults and dozens of eye attacks. The second line of action was to sabotage the negotiations between the executive and the strike committee. For example, the president did not sign the Buenaventura pre-agreement, nor the national pre-agreement, and appointed someone as negotiator who weeks later resigned to participate in politics. The idea of ​​the Government and, mainly, of Uribismo is that, if the country is burned with violence, that, in the end, will favor the Government party, since they believe that the middle and upper class will vote for them, asking for repression and a heavy hand. The third line of action will be announced in the next few days, it refers to a limited social aid package, but which will give them a certain clientelistic capacity.

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For its part, the strike committee paused, seeing the wear and tear of the mobilizations. They also know that there is an important group of citizens and communities that rejected the roadblocks or blockades and fear that they will happen again. For this reason, it is believed that many will not come out to protest and support the demonstrations. The strike hit the electoral agenda with great force. Both the left, the center and the right make electoral calculations, few are what they think of the country as a whole, so any movement aims to seek votes and score well in the polls.

What comes in the following weeks is a situation in which the actors of the strike will seek to generate attrition in the opposite. If the national government manages to deactivate it or if there are major acts of violence, President Iván Duque will be the winner and will manage to maintain a certain stability in the last year of government that remains. If it is the other way around, many people come out and there is little violence, the president will live, at least a fairly hard and complicated semester. Perhaps, by the month of September or November the country will explode again.

For now, both the national government, as well as the different political actors, as well as the organizers of the national strike are holding the air and awaiting the results of the next days of mobilization. So far the truth is that the causes for which thousands of inhabitants left to march have not been modified. The reasons still exist, the difference with April 28 is to determine the wear of the mobilization, that is, to know how large or small the wear has been. It will be a defining week.

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