WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(Federico Rios Escobar/The New York Times)

20 Nov 2019 | Joint Statement

We Stand with Colombian Civil Society Protesting the Duque Administration’s Rollbacks on Labor, Human Rights, and Peace—and the Bombing of Children

Across the country, shared and independent agendas will converge in the November 21 strike. Overall, the mobilization speaks to wide dissatisfaction with the government’s response to massacres against social leaders, indigenous peoples, rural women and their communities, labor and pension reforms, student protests, corruption, and the recalcitrant implementation of the 2016 peace accords.

Over 40 Colombian unions totaling over one million members set the date for a nationwide strike on November 21. Joining them will be the Defend the Peace movement, the student and women’s movements, Afro-Colombian and indigenous leadership and environmental organizations. The labor and pension reforms protested are part of a larger reform package, which include the privatization of Colombia’s pension fund, hourly contracts, and a wage lower than the set minimum for students under 25. These changes are a blatant slap in the face to the last 10 years efforts on the part of labor unions, human rights organizations and others to improve the conditions of and respect the rights of working people in Colombia. By making such changes the Duque administration is hammering the final nail on the coffin of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan, which was agreed to after the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was put on hold by the U.S. Congress due to extremely concerning labor rights violations, many of which persist to this day.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC by its Spanish acronym) joined the strike after suffering multiple massacres and over 115 indigenous people murdered in 2019. Students have been protesting for over three months, accusing the government of reneging on the deal they had made just a year ago as a result of prior protests, as well as corruption and lack of public education funding. Their Afro-Colombian counterparts are protesting due to the government’s antiquated approach to security that is only leading to increased displacement and harm to these communities. The Duque government’s efforts to undermine the transitional justice process agreed to in the peace accord are an impediment to peace, reconciliation and the rights of victims.

Those who marched in the last protests in favor of the peace accord and the protection of social leaders on July 26 will do so again. The resignation of Duque’s Defense Minister following the killing of 18 children in a bombing by the Colombian army failed to quell the widespread indignation caused by the event. Government representatives have claimed Nicolas Maduro and other leftist leaders are behind the protest with the end of violently destabilizing the country. By stigmatizing a majority of peaceful protestors and militarizing the sites of the protest, the government creates an environment ripe for state repression and disproportionate use of force by security forces.

The signatory organizations stand with the civil society organizations, trade unionists, women’s movements, Afro-Colombian, indigenous and rural women leaders protesting today. We adamantly reject violent state repression against peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right. If passed, the labor and pension reforms would drive minimum wage workers further into poverty, invite informal unemployment, and weaken unions. We call on the Duque Administration to implement the fully and faithfully the 2016 peace accords to halt the killing of social leaders and ethnic populations by addressing its root causes. Further, we ask U.S. authorities to encourage implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the peace accord, ensure effective implementation of all gender provisions and urge independent and effective investigations into the recent abuses committed by the Colombian armed forces, who are recipients of U.S. military assistance and whose behavior is subject to human rights conditions.

In the current context of mass mobilizations in several countries in Latin America and elsewhere [Hong Kong, Lebanon], we reaffirm that protest and strike rights have been and remain core human rights and foundational to building and maintaining democracy in most of the world.

In Colombia especially, those people and organizations who have exercised these rights have all too often suffered violent repression. In advance of the November 21 strike in Colombia, we urge Members of Congress to make clear that the United States remains committed to the exercise of these rights and unflinchingly critical of those who would repress such expressions of a vibrant democracy wherever they occur.


Washington Fair Trade Coalition

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective

United Steelworkers

United Food & Commercial Workers International Union

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries


The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

Texas Fair Trade Coalition

Rainforest Action Network

OXFAM America

Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.

Ohio Fair Trade Campaign

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Presbyterian Church

Peace Direct


Pleasant Hill Community Church, Eco-Justice Team

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ


Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Fellowship of Reconciliation: Peace Presence

EarthRights International

Cumberland Countians for EcoJustice

Crushing Colonialism

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

American Federation of Teachers

Alianza de Iglesias Presbiterianas y Reformadas de América Latina (AIPRAL)

Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN)



Yesid Blanco – Corporación Regional Yareguies-Colombia

Victoria Sanford, PhD – Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies, Lehman College-NY

Thomas Glave – Professor, SUNY Binghamton-NY

Stanley Malinowitz – Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Colombia

Sinclair Thomson – New York University-NY

Sinéad McGrath – University College Dublin

Shannon Gleeson – Associate Professor, Cornell University

Safiya St. Clair – Doctoral student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts

Patricia Rodriguez – Ithaca College – NY

Oscar Aponte – Ph.D. Student, Co-Chair of the Colombian Studies Group, CUNY-NY

Ofunshi Oba Koso, Minnesota Yoruba Cuba Association- MN

Nicolás Sánchez – Department of Latin American Studies, Duke University

Nancy Appelbaum – Director, Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies Program, Binghamton University-NY

Mary Roldán – Epstein Professor of Latin American History Hunter College, CUNY-NY

Marie-Christine Doran – Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa-Canada

María Antonia García de la Torre, Ph.D.

Marcela Velasco – Associate Professor, Colorado State University-CO

Luz M Betancourt, PhD., CUNY, Graduate Center-NY

Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera – Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Colombia

Lina Britto – Assistant Professor, Northwestern University- IL

Laura Correa Ochoa – PhD candidate, History Department, Harvard University-MA

Kristine Muñoz – Professor of Spanish, University of Iowa

Kiran Asher – Professor, University of Massachusetts-MA

Karen Juanita Carrillo – Co-founder of AfroPresencia-NY

Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt – Professor, University of Maryland-MD

Julián Gómez-Delgado – New School for Social Research-NY

Juana Suárez – NYU Cinema Studies-NY

Joseph Jordan – ACSN-NC

Jonathan Fox – Professor, School of International Service, American University-DC

John C. Dugas – Kalamazoo College-MI

Jessica Srikantia, Associate Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government-VA

Jean H. Quataert – Professor Emerita, SUNY Binghamton University-NY

Jean E. Jackson – Professor of Anthropology Emerita, MIT-MA

Janvieve Williams Comrie – Afroresistance-NY

James E. Sanders – Utah State University-UT

Jaqueline Romanow – President of UWFA

Isabel Peñaranda – Universidad de los Andes-Colombia

Gloria Monroy-DC

Gisselle Vila Benites – University of Melbourne

Gina McDaniel Tarver – Associate Professor of Art History, Texas State University-TX

Gabriel Rudas – Stony Brook University-NY

Felipe Gómez G – Professor, Carnegie Mellon University-PA

Fabian Prieto-Ñañez – Postdoctoral Researcher, Virginia Tech-VA

Erin K. McFee, PhD – The University of Chicago-IL

Eileen J. Findlay, PhD – Professor of History, American University-DC

Eduardo Sáenz Rovner – Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Colombia

David Barrios G. Ph.D. – Candidate in History, University of Calgary-Canada

Daniel Kovalik – Adjunct Professor, International Human Rights University of Pittsburgh-DC

Danesis Arce – Afromedios

Constanza López – Associate Professor, University of North Florida-FL

Claudia Salamanca – Pontificia Universidad Javeriana-Colombia

Catalina Arango Correa, PhD.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive editor, Global African Worker-DC

Bibiana Duarte Abadia – University of Amsterdam

Beatriz Betancourt

Ana Ros Matturro – Associate Professor, Binghamton University-NY

Angela J. Lederach – Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame-NC

Anthony Dest – Instructor, Spelman College

Alexander Main – Director of International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Alexander Fattal – Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego-CA


November 20, 2019

#21N #ParoNacional21Nov           #RazonesParaMarchar

#PaquetazoDeDuque                  #DuqueContraElParo