Colombia: strike wave begins with violence

Colombia's campesinos, miners, truckers and other sectors launched a nationwide strike Aug. 19, with clashes reported as strikers launched roadblocks and President Juan Manuel Santos deployed elite National Police units. Central arteries were blocked in Boyacá, Nariño and Putumayo departments. In the town of Segovia, Antioquia, hundreds of protesters reportedly threw firebombs and tried to burn the police station, leaving six officers injured. Authorities say the strike has affected 12 of Colombia's 32 departments, but press accounts have put the number as high as 28.

Strike organizers told Colombia Reports that since the strike was announced last month, only the miners and coffee workers, a small subsection of the agricultural sector, have received any contact from the government. The administration, they charge, has made no effort to avoid the strikes.

The actions are expected to expand this week as independent coffee growers who are still harvesting join the protests. Road blockades are also being maintained at Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, where campesinos protesting over coca eradication and other grievances inspired the national strike wave. However, no violence was reported there. (Colombia Reports, Aug. 19; Colombia Politics, Aug. 18)

Please support our fund drive.