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Workers Party of Britain

Colombia prisoners on hunger strike

We reproduce below a letter from a friend of the Workers Party on developments in Colombia.

Two years on from a general strike, Colombian activists and trade unionists persecuted by the government have remained trapped behind bars while many of those tied to their movement outside of prison are turning up dead.

Large numbers of Colombian activists, detained and imprisoned by the Colombian government during 2021’s national strike, have organised themselves into a campaign group and launched an indefinite hunger strike from July 1st. They claim that Colombia’s Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa Delgado, has pursued a policy of “entrapment” in an effort to prolong their imprisonment.

Incarcerated in the city of Palmira in the country’s south west, the campaign group known as the Jhonatan Sabogal Collective Process are demanding safe and humane conditions, political recognition and direct dialogue between the political prisoners incarcerated during the general strike and the new national government headed by Gustavo Petro.

Several hundred protestors were reported either dead or missing in the early months of the social upheaval brought on by the general strike, with many of those missing still unaccounted for today. These men and women are deliberate targets of the Colombian police state at its worst, as it attempted to suppress popular dissent against the Duque government and its agenda to privatise Colombian healthcare and impose a new and unpopular tax regime at the height of the COVID pandemic. This was ultimately defeated by this social explosion and Duque was unseated by the new president at the head of a coalition of progressives last June.

Unfortunately, the political violence hasn’t disappeared along with Duque; over the course of this year at least 73 people involved with the strike – and the subsequent struggle against the Duque government – have been recognised as victims of politically motivated murders, including a member of the Jhonatan Sabogal Collective Process itself, who was gunned down at his home last March after being released from prison. Family members of those targeted are likewise fair game, with several reportedly dead at the hands of reactionary thugs as part of a wider strategy to target and terrorise activists.

The Workers Party of Britain denounces the violent suppression of political prisoners and trade unionists standing up for workers rights in Colombia, a country whose government already bears a long and shameful history of violent union busting, including the widespread use of murderous means such as paramilitary death squads and the pervasive use of assassination as a tool to suppress social leadership throughout Colombia on the behalf of corporate interest groups. It is these historic tendencies that have rendered Colombia the most dangerous country in the world for trade union activism. We urge the Petro government to politically recognise the Jhonatan Sabogal Collective Process and act with all necessary haste to ensure the safety of its members and their families.

The Jhonatan Sabogal Collective Process is being supported by the Francisco Isaías Cifuentes Human Rights Network (REDDHFIC), an organisation based in Colombia that supports and advocates for victims of political persecution that face incarceration for exercising their right to political protest and calls for reform. Please consider donating to their crowdfund at: https://gofund.me/8df11ae9

All money raised will go to REDDHFIC human rights defenders to provide medical aid to political prisoners in Colombia. They will provide treatment to the prisoners when they visit with a medical professional every two days.

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