Friday, 25th January, 2002
Exactly one month ago on Christmas Day, the occupation of the CAM Tower began, and today this anniversary is being marked inside the tower with a mass-cleaning session, and a competition to determine which of the teams on each of the 16 floors of the building can sing the Internationale, and the SINTRAEMCALI anthem the best.
Outside the building, food continues to be prepared in Thatcher’s Kitchen, the streets are still patrolled by groups of workers, family and friends continue to gather to shout messages to loved ones inside, and loudspeakers continue to blast out messages of support and protest music. The infrastructure of resistance both inside and outside the tower remains intact, and in many ways has become normalized: a remarkable tribute to the adaptability of all those who have had their lives turned upside down in the last month. This is not to say that there are not problems, of course there are, but there still remains a solid determination to see this thing through.
After the road blocks of yesterday morning, the strong show of support by local communities, and the continued preparations for further actions on Monday, there are signs that the government may be yielding to public pressure, and reconsidering its position on the crucial issue of funding for the PTAR, water treatment plant. While nothing can be confirmed, an article in EL OCCIDENTE this morning stated that sources inside the government suggested that it was now prepared to pay the 80% of funding promised in an earlier agreement. If this is true, then the government and union/community alliance may be getting closer to a peaceful negotiated settlement.
True to form, the majority of the mass media did their best to discredit the blockades of yesterday, describing them as an abuse of power by the union and focusing on the inconvenience that was caused to the public. El Tiempo, one of the most popular papers in Cali, even made reference to unproven allegations that during a prior conflict trade unionists had threatened the life of the then Mayor Ricardo Cobo. They neglected to mention that he is a known paramilitary sympathiser, and that in the same period 6 SINTRAEMCALI leaders and activists were assassinated, two were forcibly disappeared, and three were put on trial for terrorism (the trial collapsed). The article also failed to mention the death threats received over the last weeks from the Paramilitaries who threatened to blow up the building, the union headquarters, and kill Alexander Lopez, the president. However, there was at least one good piece of news: an RCN radio poll showed that over 90% of those questioned said that they supported the actions of the union. Proof that even with the disinformation circulating in the media, people are beginning to make sense of the main issues involved in this conflict.
Tomorrow afternoon there is a popular assembly to agree on plans for Monday’s day of action, and members of the negotiating team are in a meeting inside the CAM Tower in preparation for the negotiations in Bogotá. Meanwhile, here in SINTRAEMCALI’s Human Rights Department, we eagerly await information on a meeting in Bogota between SINTRAEMCALI representatives and national trade union leaders, the picket of the Colombian Embassy in London, and the meeting between the Colombian ambassador and British trade union leaders. Hopefully, all of these things will contribute towards a just and peaceful resolution to the occupation.