Within the framework of the national strike that began on 28 April 2021, a diversity of expressions of social protest emerged, particularly in the city of Cali, which have materialised in the construction of the points of resistance. These points reflect the feelings of thousands of voices of dissatisfied and indignant citizens, tired of so many abuses and in search of opportunities and conditions to guarantee a dignified life for all Colombians. Within our points of resistance, popular assemblies have developed autonomously, which reflect the popular sentiment and to which we are indebted.
Recognising the need for articulation, the “Unión de Resistencias Cali, Primera línea somos todos” (URC) was created [trans: Union of Cali Resistances (URC) – We are All the First Line]. We are a process of horizontal articulation, which has been characterised by providing spaces – with and for the community – for art, culture, sport, reading, writing and orality anchored to pedagogical processes for children, young people and adults. Through these cultural events, the entire community has been involved, creating spaces for peace and solidarity that build social fabric.
At the same time, the community kitchens and medical posts implemented at the points of resistance have been the only response to solve the food and health crisis that existed prior to the strike and deepened during the pandemic, guaranteeing the supply of food and health care for a large sector of our community, as well as an economic possibility for campesino farmers and small traders through the farmers’ markets that have been set up at the different points of resistance.
However, since the beginning of the strike, the national government, instead of listening to the voices and opening to dialogue, has given a response that criminalizes legitimate social protest, through a warlike attention and stigmatizing us as vandals and urban terrorists, which has encouraged the repression, murder, arrests and disappearance of protesters, causing a massacre that has not stopped a month into the strike, so that the blood of our brothers and sisters in struggle continues to increase daily.
Likewise, the resurgence of paramilitarism has been promoted and we have clearly seen how it has increased in our city as a result of the declarations of the national, departmental and district governments, submerging our territories of peace, culture and art under the yoke of the abuse of the public and para-state forces. We have seen that when the police, ESMAD [trans: anti-riot robocops], illegal armed actors and criminals, such as the so-called ‘death hawks’ and civilians who call themselves ‘good people’, are present, our scenarios of peace and solidarity are broken by their attacks. These attacks range from intimidation, harassment, provocations, use of firearms, sexual abuse and other human rights violations, to the murder and disappearance of our comrades.
As an example of this, 58 murders and 93 disappearances have been recorded as of 31 May 2021 in Valle del Cauca. These scenarios of confrontation and mourning are the result of repression and the excessive use of force by the authorities and state institutions.
In order to seek approaches to demand guarantees for the right to social protest and to protect life, the Union of Resistance Cali – We Are All the First Line (URC) presented a list of guarantees to local, departmental and national government institutions in order to curb the excessive use of force committed by the police, ESMAD and civilians. In this regard, we have met with the mayor of Cali, the governor of Valle del Cauca and delegates from the national government and the ICBF, with the presence of the UN, MAPP – OAS, the Archdiocese of Cali and the Minga.
The institutions responded to our demands with a draft decree. For the URC, this draft decree did not include our demands for guarantees for social protest and life. As a result, on 29 May, the URC proposed a new decree “adopting guarantees for the construction of agreements” and agreed on a space for its analysis between legal representatives of the parties.
On 30 May, in the presence of the legal commissions of both parties, the two decree proposals were discussed jointly and a consensus was reached, which is reflected in the decree that we hope will be signed by the district mayor’s office. This is how we want to make it clear that we are not defining a negotiating table, but rather that we are defining the guarantees for social protest and life. If this is fulfilled, we would enter a dialogue table, where the URC is recognised as a horizontal organisation and as a valid subject of dialogue, based on our popular assemblies of resistance.
On the other hand, we reject the presidential decree 575 of 28 May 2021 and the false communiqués about the URC that point us out as urban guerrillas and provocateurs of violence, so we clarify that the only official source of information of the URC is the Facebook page URC Cali.
As a gesture of trust and in order to embrace and care for the life of the community, we have decided to progressively advance towards the roads of trust in our points of resistance, which will allow the mobility of all the inhabitants to be viable, as long as the pacts decreed by the mayor’s office to guarantee social protest and life are fulfilled.
Finally, we want to make it clear that we have always been open to dialogue and we recognise the need to articulate our struggle. Thus, we invite all the points of resistance in the national territory to move towards an articulation that starts from our social bases and escalates to a national dialogue, which gathers the diversity of expressions of resistance that continue in the streets, and to demand together the construction of popular power, the achievement of social justice, a dignified life, the guarantee of human rights, peace, democracy, freedom, land, housing, work, education, health and independence.
The strike has not stopped, in the face of death and the politics of terror, we are getting stronger and more organised. Together we will win.
Unión de Resistencias Cali – Primera línea somos tod@s.
[Translation: Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 1 June 2021]