Chronicle of Cali, capital of the resistance

Photograph by David Mendoza Soler

For those who may not of heard …

Protests in Colombia that began in late April over a proposed tax hike have morphed into a generational outcry over the country’s deep-rooted inequalities.

Fifty-eight people have died in six weeks of unrest – at least 45 of them killed by police – and dozens of people have gone missing. Protesters have set up more than 2,000 roadblocks around the South American country, hitting businesses and the government, as well as slowing down humanitarian access. Police stations and civic buildings have been torched, and the images of smoke-filled streets and skirmishes between frontline protesters and riot police have become a daily reality.

(News from The Guardian)

Corrupt politicians want to keep us poor so they can stay rich. They want us to go home, but after a month we’re still here. Older generations never made Colombia a better place, but young people have the balls to change this country. The government complains about the roadblocks we’ve set up, but they steal from the people every day. We’re showing them what that feels like. Maybe when they stop we can talk about how our roadblocks are hurting their pockets. This is a revolution, and we won’t go away until Duque is gone.

‘This is a revolution’: the faces of Colombia’s protests, The Guardian, 09/06/2021

From lundi matin #291 (10/06/2021) …

In Cali, the epicenter of the protest against Iván Duque’s right-wing government and the Uribist narco-state, the authority of the State is being questioned, while a collective conscience and real popular power are built. Indigenous peasants converge at places or points of resistance in the neighborhoods and the oppressed multitude appears, reclaims its territory. The foundations of a revolution are laid. Young people neglected by the State find recognition on the front lines. They are stepping up and risking their lives to defend the dreams of a more just Colombia, while the repression of State and parastatal forces intensifies. Every night, new cases of assassinations are reported and several NGOs have denounced the discovery of mass graves.

Since the start of the national strike, the city of Santiago de Cali, capital of the Valle del Cauca, in the south-west of the country, has become the capital of the Colombian resistance. On April 28, crowds converged from neighborhoods to the center. Banks and supermarkets were looted, protesters occupied the streets, toppled the statue of Sebastián Belalcázar, the liberator of Cali. They took over the city, if only for a few hours; a few hours that marked the symbol that Cali was to become, the epicenter of the national strike.

The response from the contested authorities was not long in coming. The mayor of Cali, the governor of Valle del Cauca and President Iván Duque himself demanded the full repression and judicialisation of the social movement. Within days, the army seized control of the city from General Zapateiro. A few weeks later, soldiers still stand guard at most street corners and in front of institutional buildings. It should be mentioned that so far the murdered, who number in the tens in Cali, and the missing, by the hundreds, have been at the hands of the police or Esmad, the riot squad.

“For the men and women who are on the front line, because there are also women, and it must be made clear, being on the front line gives them access to a totally new identity, which renders them visible and gives them recognition inside and outside of their neighborhoods. People who were previously excluded and invisible now have a purpose”, says Alexandra, a psychologist and resident of Yumbo, a suburb of Cali. Resistance was organised from the southern neighbourhoods. The meeting and struggle points have been renamed: Puerto Resistencia, Glorieta a la lucha, Portada a la Libertad, Loma de la dignidad

At the forefront of demonstrations and within the framework of community kitchens, a chain of solidarity, a political and social consciousness, has emerged. The community organises itself, supplies the collective with donations of food, clothing, medical equipment, sometimes Molotov cocktails. “This is a spontaneous popular uprising, with no planning or prior experience,” Alexandra says. “Those who do not actually take to the streets have looked for other ways to support the mobilisation. There is a certain awakening. Neighbors come out and applaud from their doors and windows. They open the door for young people when necessary to help them escape the police.

In small shops or stalls set up in the streets, meals are prepared and distributed to everyone present. Queues form, as for many it is the only daily meal. Cultural activities and workshops are organised. A political consciousness is constructed and affirmed, around personal stories and the collective experience of the struggle. During a writing workshop in La Luna, Monica observes: “There is a lot of injustice, a lot of racism, a lot of discrimination, a lot of classism. These are things to think about, to remember. What we are experiencing is a historic opportunity. We are changing reality. This mobilization made it possible to achieve results that even Congress had never achieved before. Overturn reforms, ministers … “. “We have to demand that the Congress come to the different cities and listen to what the people are saying. At points of resistance, we must become primary constituents, where the sovereignty and power of the country resides, starting from the neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, in the countryside, throughout the Valle del Cauca, the main roads are blocked. And as State violence moved from the countryside to the cities, in Cali, the Indigenous Guard came in to provide resistance know-how. The peasants, self-organised in an indigenous Minga and in the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC) for decades, have come to the city to support the strike and defend the repressed protesters. A convergence of struggles. “Minga is a word that comes from Quechua,” says Marlón, who left a village in the neighboring department of Huila two years ago to try his luck in Cali. “It is a collective gathering, community work for the common good, a self-organised struggle for the benefit of all.”

The Univalle campus, Santiago de Cali’s only public university, is located to the south of the city, and has become an essential space for uniting the struggle of the neighborhoods, a space for organisation and political awareness. It plays a key role in building popular power in Cali. At the many points of resistance and self-management, a neighborhood university was born: professors or students give courses in politics, sociology, history, biology … From the point of resistance known as a Luna, Santiago, professor at the Univalle, explains: ‘We are trying to recover the Open Agora, where education is relevant and functional for the development of our people. We must make it a constructive experience for all, by moving the lessons to the streets, where the classrooms are the points of resistance.”

Places in public universities are very scarce here, and there are many who want to study but who, due to their social status, do not have access to the university. Before the strike, many young people gathered at Univalle, even though they could not enter the lecture halls. These young people are at the forefront of the social movement, and the right to education is at the forefront of demands.

Like everywhere else in the country, in Cali and throughout the Valle del Cauca lives an extremely elitist minority. But here it also coexists with strong indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. In rural areas, there is a deep-rooted conflict over land. “Some large families, the richest, appropriate hundreds of hectares, leaving them unused, uncultivated, while depriving communities of the full use of their territory”, explains Sebastián, a social science student at Univalle and a resident of Pichindé, a rural town in the suburbs of Cali. “The big landowners and the Creole bourgeoisie also co-opt the institutions, they govern and impose their interests, the police repress as they wish. They are openly racist and classist.”

In Yumbo, north of Cali, where some of the region’s more privileged spheres also live, police repression has been brutal to free the access roads to these golden ghettos. Bodies of missing demonstrators were found there in the rivers. And the Interfaith Commission for Justice and Peace warns of “the existence of mass graves in the municipality of Yumbo where the bodies of many young people in Cali are being taken.” They denounce “the responsibility of the police in operations of a paramilitary and clearly criminal nature” and call on the State to “carry out a technical examination with forensic experts and the participation of international observers.”

In Ciudad Jardín, another privileged neighborhood, civilians came out to shoot the peasants of the native guard, who after a few weeks decided to withdraw, in the face of these racist paramilitary militias. A month after the beginning of the national strike, on May 28, Iván Duque went precisely to Ciudad Jardín, to meet the inhabitants of this reactionary neighbourhood and to announce, again and again, the full deployment of the army, tripling the numbers already present in the Valle del Cauca. The government will protect their economic interests from poor young vandals and uneducated indigenous peasants who want to regain power over their own existence and their own territories.

Alexis Habouzit

Music from a rebellion …

In Solidarity with Colombian People in Struggle

Internationalist Joint Statement

Today, the world looks at Colombia, its streets and roads being the stage where people have shown dignified rage in a powerful cry which cannot go unnoticed. Social protests happening uninterruptedly since April 28 are the response to the exacerbation of poverty and the precariousness of life, immediate consequences of neoliberalism. Amid a sanitary, economic, and social crisis, the latter has manifested itself in 1.7 million Colombian families feeding themselves only two meals a day or less, a 14.2% unemployment rate, and nearly half of the population (42.2%) living in poverty.

People from different regions around the world currently experience similar situations. In Latin America, for instance, by the end of last year, the overall poverty rate was about 33.75%, the unemployment rate about 10.7%, and 78 million people were living in extreme poverty (8 million more than in 2020). The governments in office have responded to this social crisis by implementing policies of structural adjustment, which in this case has meant the increase and diversification of taxation for the working class as austerity measures. In Colombia, the far-right government of Iván Duque attempted the above through its third attempt at tax reform in his term of office. Those who pay for the crisis are not its producers, but the exploited and impoverished.

In this context, thousands of people in Colombia have protested, especially the working-class youth. In the streets, roads, and working-class districts people resist and struggle building barricades, banging pots and pans, and assemblies. This fight for justice is part of a novel wave of protests and revolts which have taken place in Latin America since 2019; momentary unrests which have reactivated grassroots organization.

On its part, the Colombian State has responded, as do all States when their interests are at risk, with brutal violence and repression. The numbers are frightening and speak for themselves. Up until May 8, 47 people were murdered (39 as a result of police violence), 451 were injured (32 eye injuries and firearm injuries), 12 people were victims of gender-based violence and sexual abuse, 548 people went missing, and 963 were detained.

Regarding brutal repression perpetrated by the government lead by Iván Duque against those who struggle and resist in Colombia, we call for solidarity, for people to keep protesting throughout the territory, and to denounce, by all means possible, what today grieves Colombian people. Internationalist solidarity is the safeguard of the struggles we forge, and, therefore, we support the demands of the protests in Colombia (Paro Nacional): End state violence, withdraw the health reform now, and provide a universal basic income!

International solidarity with people’s struggle!
Viva el Paro Nacional!
In the face of State repression, working-class self-defense, and unity!


Federación Anarquista Uruguaya – FAU (Uruguay)

Federación Anarquista de Rosario – FAR (Argentina)

Organización Anarquista de Tucumán – OAT (Argentina)

Embat – Organització Llibertària de Catalunya (Catalonia)

Devrimci Anarsist Federasyon – DAF (Turkey)

Anarchist Federation (Greece)

Organización Anarquista de Córdoba – OAC (Argentina)

Roja y Negra – Organización Política Anarquista (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Federación Anarquista Santiago – FAS (Chile)

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement – AWSM (Aotearoa / New-Zealand)

Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira – CAB (Brazil)

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front – ZACF (South Africa)

Alternativa Libertaria – AL/fdca (Italia)

Grupo Libertario Vía Libre (Colombia)

Workers Solidarity Movement – WSM (Ireland)

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group – MACG (Australia)

Organisation Socialiste Libertaire – OSL (Switzerland)

Union Communiste Libertaire (France & Belgium)


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