After fourteen days of national strike and a meeting without any agreement between the Government of Iván Duque and the National Strike Committee, anxiety remains in Valle del Cauca, especially in Cali, where people carrying out road blockades have entered into open confrontation with the Police.
Although during the last week demonstrations occurred relatively peacefully in Medellín and Bogotá, in Cali the situation seems to be escalating and confrontations between groups of vandals and the police are becoming more frequent, and the use of firearms is increasingly common in these confrontations.
On Monday night there was again an exchange of gunfire between police and vandals in Siloé, in the capital of Valle del Cauca. On the Juanchito bridge, on the outskirts of Cali, there were also reports of shots fired by members of the police against people who were blocking the place.
Although the demonstrators have denounced the use of firearms by the security forces, in the middle of the blockades in Siloé, people have been identified using firearms and shooting at the police.
The tension has also led to clashes between the community, vandals and the indigenous guard (which since last week began to arrive in Cali). The tension led to a shootout on Sunday, where more than 8 people are reported to have been wounded.
Negotiations with the National Strike Committee do not advance
Facing the pressure due to the strike, the government has been forced to establish some “negotiations”, clearly emphasizing on such term, when during the 2019 demonstrations it maintained that it would hold “talks” with the members of the National Strike Committee.
Last Friday, Duque met with leaders of the opposition, the Coalition of Hope, integrated by different center-left congress members belonging to parties such as the Green Alliance, the Democratic Pole, and the Liberal Party.
Sergio Fajardo, one of the heads of the movement and its possible candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, urged Duque to go to Cali and sit down to talk with the members of the strike in that city.
Over the weekend, the president also met with 40 young people from all regions of the country, although the members of the strike say they do not feel represented by them.
Finally, on Monday, the long-awaited meeting between the National Strike Committee and the Government took place. The Committee demands a basic income of a monthly minimum wage for 9 million households, the withdrawal of the health reform currently being processed in Congress, the establishment of a subsidy for SMEs, the establishment of tariffs to protect the country’s agricultural and industrial production, as well as free public education and condemnation of police violence.
Although public education is already free, there is a subsidy program for SMEs and the basic income quadruples the cost of what the Government expected to collect with the tax reform, the National Strike Committee insisted on these points in order to sit down to negotiate.
While blockades and confrontations continue in Cali and Valle del Cauca, the first round of dialogues at the Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá, did not reach any point, so the Committee announced that the marches will continue and called for a new demonstration for this Wednesday, May 12.