Uribe is in Cali Again
24th March was a bank holiday Monday in Cali. A day when all the men and women working at EMCALI, EICE, as well as their partners, joined togther in Plaza Caicedo to await the results of the meeting taking place in the Military Base between the President of the Republic, "Super" Eva Maria Uribe, SINTRAEMCALI, the mayor and various citizen's watchbodies and associations.
It was not a public event, everything had been organised by word of mouth from the previous Friday. That day the union had received a threatening letter from director Lourdes Salamanca advising that President Uribe did not recognise the accord signed on 18th March establishing a timetable for negotiations between all the parties. Salamanca had insisted and that the corporation's future would be decided by Uribe on 24th March.
Those who were present and informed were the Anti-Mutiny Police who surrounded the plaza and took down the details of everyone who approached. And in the plaza were the narks [literally "straps"], the usual agents of military intelligence dressed in civilian clothes.
The speaker system broadcasting into the plaza reported that the President of the Republic was being fraternal and friendly with the trade union, that the meeting was being conducted on good terms and that, yes, the two presidents were "respecting each other".
Meanwhile, in the district of Agua Blanca it was a different story. There were around 100 people from the displaced communities, as well as community organisations and students in solidarity with SINTRAEMCALI, gathered for the defence of their public services and demanding their rights as displaced people.
The day's protest started at 10.30am with a blockade of the principal street, with tyres, trees and guaduas. Dramatic events started to unfold half an hour later. A civilian dressed man driving a car with number plates "Aro 172" shot indiscriminately at the demonstraters, one of whom was lightly injured in their left arm. At the request of the demonstrators the police went to where the car was but, with a complicity already well known in such cases, the police ignored the man who had fired the shots and advised the community that the best way to avoid worse injury was for them to give up the protest.
Other members of the state security forces accompanied by men in civilian dress started to seek out and tried to detain five known members of the caleña community. After a great battle, the police dispersed the crowd with their sticks.
At two in the afternoon SINTRAEMCALI's President arrived at Caicedo Plaza, where the workers had been waiting impatiently for news of the meeting. Lucho reported that at last Uribe had recognised the 18th March accord, and that the working commission formed on that date would start its work in the next few days. So we now have another dead line, the First of May. Legally, the Collective Agreement cannot be changed or revised until this date, so historic for all the workers of the world.
Finally, the President of SINTRAEMCALI expressed his admiration for those activists in the community who had once again risked their lives in the Agua Blanca protest, and who had not been intimidated by the sticks or the bullets of the country's privatising forces.
The men and women workers withdrew peacefully from the plaza, in the expectancy that 1st May will be another historic date in the history of struggle to save their employer EMCALI as a state corporation.
SINTRAEMCALI Human Rights Department
25th March 2003