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Colombia: Nationwide Demonstrations Mark May 1

Categories: Latin America, Colombia, Citizen Media, Human Rights, Labor, Protest

As in other countries, Colombia commemorates International Work’s Day [1]  on 1 May. Traditionally [2] [es], the day is celebrated by labor unions and various citizens who march on the streets to demonstrate in favor of labor welfare, social and economic development, and to reject any act that violates human dignity and the quality of life of workers.

This year in Colombia workers in different cities protested against the recently signed free trade agreement [3]with the United Sates, high unemployment, poor salaries compared to the high living costs, outsourcing, and the transfer of the Social Security Institute to Colpensiones [4]. Citizens also protested in favor for the right to life, education, work and health.

Marches in most cities were peaceful, as Frontera Informativa [5] [es] reported about Manizales. But in Bogota and Medellin (where more people protested) demonstrations ended with the intervention of military forces. Several protesters were arrested and others wounded. However, traditional media spent more air time on the day's events abroad [5] [es] than on local protests, while some [6] [es] citizen and “independent” media outlets provided more local coverage.

“Este es El Punto” refers [7] [es] to the origin of the day and questions the date in the United States (September 1). Finally, the blog mentions the President Santos’ [8] [es] new decree on home-based employment contracts:

Como nota positiva el presidente santos firmo un decreto para que las empresas empiecen a contratar a sus empleados desde sus casas.

On a positive note, President Santos signed a decree [9] [es] for companies to start hiring employees from their homes.

Carlos Arturo Gamboa, on the blog Tutor Virtual, reflects on employment [10] [es] as slavery and cites a video of Argentine Santiago Bou:

El trabajo hoy, en su gran mayoría, es la marca de que el valor de lo humano es una cifra, de que la dignidad habita en el olvido y lo peor de todo, de que la mayoría de empleados están dispuestos a aceptar los más grandes vejámenes con el fin de sostenerse en su lugar. Es como si los esclavos amaran sus cadenas.

Work today mostly shows that human worth is a figure, that the dignity lives in oblivion and worst of all, most employees are willing to accept the largest vexations to stay in place. It’s as if slaves loved their chains.

In Twitter the phrase “Día del Trabajo” (Labor Day [11]) [es], became a Trending Topic as users referred to the marches, called for dignified work, and discussed other related issues.

Pacho  (@ pachitoelche [12]) [es] talks about the unrest [13] [es] and calls for dignified work:

Marcharon muchos en diferentes ciudades de Colombia también hubo disturbios. Yo marché por millones de personas q no tienen trabajo digno

Many marched in different cities of Colombia also there were also riots. I marched for millions of people that don't have dignified work.

Ivan Martinez (@ OlimacNavi [14]) [es] thinks that the march [15] [es] was affected by communists:

Otra vez los comunistas tirándose la ciudad. Luego dicen que los del ESMAD [Policía anti disturbio [16]] son cerdos que los maltratan. Feliz Día del Trabajo en la cárcel.

Communists again, ruining the city. Then say ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Police [17]) are pigs who mistreat you. Happy Labor Day in jail.

Karla Serrano  (‏@KarlaSerrano7 [18]) [es] quotes a phrase [19] [es]:

 “El trabajo endulza la vida; pero no a todos les gustan los dulces.” Richard Hugo”

“Work sweetens life, but not everyone likes candy.” Richard Hugo”

Jesus Blanco (@ Gsusologo [20]) [es] tweeted [21] [ [es] with irony:

Me río yo del trabajo digno…

I laugh at dignified labor…

@ Comolanigua [22] [es] shares two images [23] of the anti-riot police:

En la marcha de #1mayo [24]se distribuyeron decenas de papas en la cara del ESMAD

http://www.flickr.com/photos/21476752 @ N08/6988071524 / [25], está su reacción
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 21476752 @ N08/6988073666/in/set-72157629581472990 / [26]
In the May 1 march, potato chips were distributed in the face of ESMAD http://www.flickr.com/photos/21476752 @ N08/6988071524 / [25], this was their reaction http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 21476752 @ N08/6988073666/in/set-72157629581472990 / [26]

Pueblo Uníos published several videos [27] [es] on their YouTube account. In one video they interview several workers [28] [es] in the march in Medellin. These workers commented on the pension reform, temporary contracts, cooperatives, recognition of indigenous cultures, the free trade agreement with the U.S., and the right to health:

Finally, the blog “Marcha Patiotica” (Patriotic March) shares [29][es] some grim statistics:

(…) Colombia es hoy el tercer país más desigual del mundo, en el que mientras 30 compañías reportan ingresos operacionales anuales superiores a dos billones de pesos, según cifras oficiales el 43.6% de los trabajadores son informales y el 49.2% del total de ocupados recibe ingresos inferiores al salario mínimo y el nivel de crudeza e injusticia es tal que en puerto Gaitán, lugar donde tiene su principal centro de operaciones Pacific rubiales, empresa que reporta exorbitantes ganancias, los niños mueren de hambre, tendiendo este municipio el mas alto índice de mortalidad infantil del país y como muestra de la persecución sistemática contra la organización de los trabajadores entre el 2011 y lo que va corrido del 2012 han sido asesinados 35 lideres sindicales.

Colombia is now the third most unequal country in the world, where 30 companies reported annual operating earning over two billion dollars, according to official figures 43.6% of workers are informal and 49.2% of the total employed have income below the minimum wage. The level of cruelty and injustice is such that in Puerto Gaitán, where Pacific Rubiales (a company that reported exorbitant profits) has its main operations, children are starving. Furthermore, this municipality has the highest infant mortality rate in the country and as a sign of the systematic persecution against the organization of workers between 2011 and thus far in 2012, 35 union leaders have been killed.