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Colombia Rural Strike Stands Strong as Police Repression Mounts
TeleSUR, the Dawn News / Friday 10 June 2016

Tens of thousands of peasants, rural workers, and Indigenous people in Colombia have been fighting against massive land inequality and privatization decrees, as well as the right to participate in the ongoing Colombian peace talks, under the banner of the Minga (Strike) of Resistance for Life, Territory, Dignity, Peace, and the Implementation of the Agreements.

However, this has been met by massive brutality at the hands of the Colombian riot police known as ESMAD who have attempted to crush the strikers with lethal force. Clashes have already left three protesters dead, as well as over 100 jailed and 202 injured.

Lawmakers are now close to approving a controversial legislation that would allow the police to enter private residences without a judicial warrant, carry out arbitrary arrests and criminalize protesters occupying public space.

Despite the martyrdom of the three killed protesters and the looming threat of increased repression, the fighting campesinos continue to struggle for their social rights, land, and basic dignity.

Striking Rural Workers Warn of Looming Crackdown

Reports of violent repression by Colombian police takes place as lawmakers consider a controversial legislation that would violate civil liberties.

Colombia’s national agrarian strike entered its tenth straight day on Wednesday as thousands of citizens are protesting against privatization decrees, massive land inequality, and the demand to participate in the ongoing Colombian peace talks.

The strike of rural and agricultural workers is taking place throughout Colombia, with demonstrations and pickets shutting down several parts of the Pan-American highway.

Organizers of the national protests, which are being carried out under the banner of the “Agrarian, Ethnic, Rural and Popular Minga,” called for international protection after three protesters were killed, more than 200 injured and 100 were arrested.

According to the Cumbre Agraria, a social organization negotiating improved conditions in the countryside with the government, mobilizations will continue indefinitely until the government listens to communities and provides concrete solutions to their problems.

The Cumbre Agraria also issued a request to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to send observers to guarantee the right to protest is respected.

“We demand that the Colombian Ministry of Defense guarantee the right to social protest and respect the lives of the demonstrators,” Cumbre Agraria said in a press release on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, international civil society groups have also called on the the Colombian security forces to comply with international standards on the use of force and respect for basic civil liberties.

“We are calling on President Santos and the Colombian state to choose peace, to curb any violence when dealing with protesters, and to respond to the concrete, and legally justified, demands that protesters have made,” Sebastian Muñoz, Senior Programs Officer (Latin America) at War on Want, said in a statement on Wednesday.

However, the recent instances of excessive force by Colombian riot police take place as lawmakers are nearing the approval of a controversial legislative bill that would implement sweeping changes to the country’s national police code.

Under the proposed bill, the police would be allowed to enter private residences without a judicial warrant, carry out arbitrary arrests and criminalize protesters occupying public space.