The Colombian teachers' union FECODE has called for a national strike on 20 and 21 February in demand of “life, peace and democracy”.
“We don't want them to keep killing us”, explained Nelson Alarcón, president of FECODE, a member organisation of Education International (EI). Over the past several months, there have been more than 800 reports of forced displacement and threats, in addition to the 14 teachers killed throughout the country last year. The many education trade unionists who have been victims of harassment and threats include several members of the FECODE Executive Committee. In light of these developments, the union is calling for immediate and decisive political action: "President Duque's administration must guarantee the right to life and to carry out union activities, and it must urgently and reliably seek to protect union, social, popular and environmental leaders", says an official statement published by the union.
FECODE called for the strike following the recent attack on Carlos Rivas, a member of the union's executive committee, on 8 February, when three projectiles hit the vehicle in which he was travelling. The union has announced that it will continue to mobilise peacefully until a meaningful dialogue is established with the administration of Iván Duque and solutions are found to the situation. “We demand that inquiries be made, that those responsible be identified and that justice be served in light of these events”, the union said. If the circumstances surrounding the threats and attacks are not clarified, the union will refer the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The 48-hour national strike will be held as a series of demonstrations, informative assemblies, rallies and protests in every city in the country. The union defends the concept of schools as territories of peace and has detailed the following demands as grounds for the strike:
- Defence of the lives of union, social, popular and environmental leaders, and safeguards for the free practice of the teaching profession.
- Right to access decent healthcare for Colombian teachers.
- To demand compliance with the agreements reached with the Colombian Government.
EI General Secretary David Edwards has reached out to FECODE management to convey the solidarity of the 32 million teachers in the global union. Edwards condemned the violence against education workers and trade unionists in Colombia, as well as other human rights abuses in the country. “No one should be threatened for belonging to a union or killed for being a teacher”, Edwards declared.Many unions have expressed their solidarity with FECODE in the form of official statements or visits to the country. To this end, the Justice for Colombia platform, which includes British unions affiliated to EI that had come to the country to monitor the peace process, expressed its solidarity with the union during the strike, and European unions such as FECCOO (Spain) sent letters of support to the Colombian union's leadership.