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"It is fundamental to guarantee the right to protest and dissent, as well as the rights to health, food, property, and human dignity of those who protest and those who do not," the Senate president stressed.
Colombia's Senate on Thursday morning hosted the National Strike Committee (CNP) in a virtual meeting to hear their views on the mass protests that have been taking place against President Ivan Duque since April 28.
At the start of the public hearing, Senate President Arturo Char indicated that the lawmakers had also invited government representatives.
"For the Senate presidency, it is fundamental to guarantee the right to protest and dissent, as well as the rights to health, food, property, and human dignity of those who protest and those who do not," he said.
The CNP spokeswoman Elizabeth Quiñonez began by recalling that progressive social and political organizations had asked the Duque administration to listen to the reasons why his proposed tax reform was rejected by the majority of Colombians. However, this request went unheeded since 2019.
"Besides urging to strengthen the health system to fight the pandemic, we asked the government to establish a basic income for 10 million Colombians for a year," she recalled, explaining that such a measure would have avoided "the current economic debacle because we would have had those resources multiplying effective demand and sustaining production."
Despite more than a week of intense and massive protests, the attitude of the Colombian government seems not to have changed substantially. On May 5, local outlets reported that Duque had called for a "meeting to advance an agenda on the fundamentals".
Dozens of Colombian-Americans gathered in Raleigh yesterday for a vigil for at least 30 dead due to mass anti-riot police brutality in Colombia during #ParoNacional protests against tax reforms from the government. Photos by Colombianos en Raleigh group on FB. #SOSColombiapic.twitter.com/4UlWjAJrJK
In this vague call for dialogue, however, the authorities left out the National Strike Committee, the only organization that brings together all the sectors that have actively mobilized against neoliberal economic policies.
"Frankly, I do not understand why Duque does not talk to the National Strike Committee," said Juan Fernando Cristo, who was Interior Minister during the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018).
"I would like to make a call for common sense. With whom we have to dialogue is with those who are in the street, who are young people," said Bogota City Mayor Claudia Lopez, as reported by LeoNoticias.
Shortly after midday on Thursday, while the public hearing was still taking place in the Senate, outlet Caracol reported that Labor Minister Angel Cabrera had announced that the Colombian president was willing to receive "today" the National Strike Committee.
This possible meeting would supposedly discuss the establishment of a universal basic income, the repeal of some aspects of the tax reform, and proposals on health reform.
#Colombia | "I want to study! Long live the struggle!"