Colombia wants comprehensive talks with strike leaders

Diego Molano says government will talk with national strike leaders without ultimatums or imposition of agenda

Sergio Felipe Garcia Hernandez   | 05.12.2019
Colombia wants comprehensive talks with strike leaders Diego Molano, representative of Colombian government

BOGOTA, Colombia 

Bogota wants comprehensive talks with the National Strike Committee and other sectors in a scenario that the government defines as a "national conversation," a government representative told Anadolu Agency. 

Diego Molano, who was appointed by the government to articulate a dialogue with protesters who have demonstrated since Nov. 21, told Anadolu Agency he ruled out the country’s riot squad (ESMAD) turning away from the protesters and called the request of strike leaders "inadmissible."

He indicated that Bogota regrets the death of Dilan Cruz, 18, during mobilizations and said the case should be investigated.

AA: On Tuesday, the government met strike leaders. What were the conclusions of this meeting?

DM: Since the national conversation initiative was launched, President Ivan Duque gave the instruction to maintain a broad dialogue with all sectors, with young people, students, businessmen, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous people, so we can arrive at concrete solutions.

The idea is to win confidence and together, solve the problems that Colombia has. The National Strike Committee said that they want an independent negotiation and different from the national conversation.

Additionally, they stated that there should be two guarantees in the mobilizations. First, is that ESMAD is not in the marches and that is inadmissible for the Colombian government. And second, they wanted a media spokesperson, to which the government replied that it cannot be possible because it corresponds to the statute of the opposition.

For this reason, what has been determined is that we continue with the national conversation. President Duque's interest is to continue acting and solving the country's problems through his government programs.

The government maintains its attitude of conversation with different sectors. There will also be authority insofar as the security and life of those who march as well as the majority who do not march, are guaranteed.

AA: So, what is the government's response to the National Strike Committee’s proposal to have an independent negotiation?

DM: There was no agreement on that issue because they want an independent negotiation and what we have said is that we want a dialogue board that brings to other sectors the possibility of participating as well.

We agreed to speak again on Thursday to see how we can discuss the 13 themes that they have pointed out to discuss. We have to think in Colombia and see how we can solve the problems that the country has and that is not a matter of what the negotiation is called but of having the disposition to solve the problems.  

AA: Are there some of the 13 points raised by the committee that the government is willing to prioritize in case the negotiation progresses?

DM: Part of the construction of the roadmap with strike leaders is to review the 13 points. In some cases, the government has to be honest and point out if their requests belong to another area or to another branch of the public sector such as Congress or Justice.

The government has fiscal restrictions that have to considered and look at possibilities for the development of public policies. What we have raised in the national conversation is that as we discuss the problems, it can be being solved.

For example, an initiative emerged on the need to have employment for young people and immediately in the process of having an economic growth reform an article was included that gives tax discounts for the creation of youth employment.  

AA: Are you looking forward to defining a roadmap with the National Strike Committee?

DM: We must sit down to define that road map. The fundamental thing is that the committee has an attitude of dialogue and recognizes that here is an active government, that has a democratic mandate and that cannot be set an ultimatum or an agenda. The state is not being negotiated and no impositions can occur.  

AA: How do you intend to connect the dialogue that the government has had with some sectors in the national conversation with the negotiation of the National Strike Committee if it takes place?

DM: There are several issues, but for example on the issue of the fight against corruption, if one of the issues are the bills that come out of the consultation, it has to be a talk with the Congress.

There are organizations that have handled the issue a lot and are part of the national conversation. So why not generate a dialogue in which sectors communicate to have more concrete solutions.

It cannot be possible that in the topics of education the newly elected mayors who have representation and that initiate the discussion of their government plan between January and February are not involved. In this topic, we have a great opportunity.

But what the government cannot do is a single conversation with the Committee without involving the municipal mayors and the governors to materialize proposals in education. 

AA: What position does the government have regarding the death of Dilan Cruz, a fact that has marked this strike?

DM: What is clear is that the kovernment, its public force and particularly the police is an institution that belongs to the Colombian state, which has the mandate to comply with human rights protocols.

These types of situations are isolated events that have to be investigated and we are very sorry.

We have to make a call to reflect as a nation. You cannot have peaceful marches that ends in violence or vandalism and then have effects in daily life.

Nor can it be that 150 policemen who are part of ESMAD have been injured in this strike. They have also been affected by the violence generated during the marches.

The country must be clear that the state is here to protect the lives of protesters, but also non-protesters. 

AA: What is the vision of the jovernment of the ‘Casserole’ that has become a symbol in these mobilizations?

DM: What President Duque understands is that there are some groups that marched, but there are others who are expressing their outrage through a ‘casserole’ for very different reasons.

A week ago, in Medellin, there was a casserole against climate change, while in Bucaramanga people tried to defend a moor.

So, to focus these diversities we promoted a national conversation where everyone has the floor and where the regions have a voice. That is why when the National Strike Committee states that the dialogue must be exclusive and independent, it is leaving out a number of citizens who want to participate.

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