Colombia: Youth Mark ‘Independence Day’ with Militant Protests against US Imperialism

By David Martinez

On Colombia’s traditional ‘Independence Day,’ July 20, revolutionary students and youth led large, combative demonstrations in Medellin and Bogota challenging the idea that the country has real independence while under the thumb of imperialism. In messages painted on walls, speeches, and chants, protesters denounced the country’s ruling class and their servitude to imperialist interests, principally to US imperialism. Among many militant actions, the protesters burned the US flag and chanted anti-imperialist slogans, such as, “We are students, not pacifists! Long live the anti-imperialist struggle!”

Since late April, Colombia has exploded in waves of combative protests in a general rebellion against the Colombian State, sparked by proposed tax reforms which would further burden poor workers and the middle class. The mobilizations on July 20 mark a resurgence after several weeks of waning protests, directly opposing the opportunist leaders and organizations who have acted on behalf of the Colombian State in trying to suppress the militant rebellions.

One of these opportunist groups is the National Strike Committee (CNP, Comite Nacional de Paro), which has proclaimed itself the leadership of the rebellion while seeking to divert it into electoralism and pacifism. The CNP planned a concert in Medellin for ‘Independence Day,’ which ended up being confronted by protesters three hours into the march.

Banner reads “Without power everything is an illusion! Let’s organize the People’s War against the oppressors!”

As they approached the site of the concert, revolutionary organizers led the march in chants against the opportunism of the CNP. During the march, posters signed by Youth Resistance (Resistencia Juvenil) were put up declaring, “The Strike Committee does not represent us!” The CNP concert was called off as skirmishes escalated between the militant youth and the militarized Colombian riot police known as the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD, Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios)—the police attacked the youth while leaving the opportunist forces untouched. The ESMAD have become the target of the people’s anger throughout the uprisings for their violent repression and murder of protesters in the streets, as well as sexual assaults against female protesters.

The heavy police repression did not prevent protesters from burning flags and effigies of politicians and the police, and painting revolutionary slogans on walls throughout the city. Slogans were documented reading, “Without power, all is an illusion! Let’s organize the People’s War against the oppressors” and “Maoism guides the new wave of the world revolution!” Other graffiti expressed solidarity with the League of Poor Peasants (LCP, Liga dos Camponeses Pobres) of Brazil and the agrarian struggle in both Brazil and Colombia.

El Comunero, a people’s newspaper from Colombia, explained, “The 20th of July is a traditional date which officially recognizes the wars of independence which liberated this country from the yoke of Spanish colonialism, wars led by creoles [Colombians of Spanish descent—Ed.], but with the participation of the popular masses of craftsmen, indigenous peoples, and enslaved Africans who gave their lives.”

The fight for independence was not resolved at the time of these wars in 1810, with England soon taking up the role of the dominant colonial power with the help of the creole landlords and slave owners. In the twentieth century, US imperialism came to dominate the country, and is now the principal force that maintains the country as a semi-colony and in a semi-feudal state through its lackeys: the big landlords as well as the private and state monopoly capitalists who rule Colombia.

“This is why we revolutionaries burn their flags, because we are driven by anti-imperialism and the necessity of kicking out that foreign power that brings yankee imperialism so that we may develop our nation,” El Comunero wrote in an article on the July 20 protests. “This is the situation of Colombia and the other oppressed nations, whom we should unite with in order to expel and annihilate yankee imperialism.”

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