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Colombian General Strike

They were shooting at people from helicopters, with entire neighbourhoods put under siege … – Eyewitness Of The General Strike In Cali – Colombia. 4th May 2021

Photo: AS.COM

Last night, 3rd May, things went on to a whole different level. Cali was turned into a militarised war zone, a huge military-style operation against several ofthe concentration points of the strike, particularly in the poorer, working-class neighbourhoods, such as Siloe and La Luna.

Statistics are not confirmed, because human rights organisations are still trying to verify them, but least six people were killed in Siloe, including a 13 year old boy. Mainly with live bullets fired indiscriminately against the protesters.  

They were shooting at people from helicopters, with entire neighbourhoods put under siege. Huge fire power was being used, not just with live bullets that the police were carrying but also with huge amounts of teargas. They were also firing from the police riot squads’, the ESMAD’s tanquetas.  A huge use of state fire power.

Cali is not under the control of the mayor now. President Duque has put the head of the army, Zapatero, in charge of public order in Cali, overriding the local government.    The city feels very much like a militarised zone at the moment, we’ve got helicopters flying over every two to three minutes.  One of the Cali senators has tweeted  this morning that  2,000 more police have just arrived.  So it doesn’t seem there’s much chance that they will be stopping very soon.

Siloe is one of Cali’s particularly deprived areas.  The state wants to stigmatise them: “Ah well there’s a lot of people on social media saying‘these are just ‘young hoodlums armed to the teeth’, so that’s why the police have to shoot them”. That is part of the strategy.  It’s clearly, on the one hand,  being used to justify the police going in to shoot the protesters, but also it’s about spreading terror amongst people and possibly provoke some of the young people who’ve got guns to come out and confront them.  

However, it is clear here who is responsible – huge state provocation. State terrorism is being used on a mass scale against particularly young poor protesters from these neighbourhoods and who are out there on the front line. The youth have decided that they have got nothing left to lose, hence have put up heroic and brave resistance against state violence.

Media Manipulation Trying To Defeat the Strike

The mainstream media is running stories about food shortages, and limits on supermarket purchases.  It’s not clear how much of this is true and how much is manipulated by the state. Yesterday there was an agreement that some of the pickets, the blockades on the edges of the city, would ensure that food supply chains are respected and food can come through. That’s been seen on social media, but still the mainstream media are reporting that people are running out of food, in order to cause panic and decrease public support for the strike.

Another worrying aspect, there are reports that in some of the richer neighbourhoods in the south of Cali such as Ciudad Jardín, neighbourhoods are forming vigilante groups. They are threatening and sometimes attacking the protesters.  Because of the terror which is being spread through the media around supposed vandalism and the violent nature of these protests, the state media are really whipping up fear in these right-wing middle-class neighbourhoods, some of whom are quite heavily armed.  

As I write a military-sounding plane has just flown overhead.


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