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Rally on Milwaukee’s southside in solidarity with Colombians struggling against political repression

By Ryan Hamann

Milwaukee protest slams U.S. backed repression in Colombia.

Milwaukee, WI – On the sunny afternoon of May 10, members of the Milwaukee’s Colombian community, activists and supporters gathered at Walker’s Square Park on the Southside to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Colombia in the wake of the violent repression. Nearly 40 people joined the protest, including members of the Red Condor Collective, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, The People’s Revolution, and Our Wisconsin Revolution.

On April 28, most sectors of Colombia began a general strike in response to anti-people measures put forward by the right-wing, U.S.-backed government of Ivan Duque. Unions, social justice groups, indigenous organizations and others joined together to fight back. As a result, the Colombian state has mobilized against its people, murdering dozens, disappearing others, and injuring hundreds in the span of less than two weeks. Police, military, and paramilitary have united in opposition to the Colombian masses. Afro-Colombians and indigenous people have been particularly targeted, as have union members.

“The U.S., in any place they’ve had their hands in, places like Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua, we see the same exact shit happening. We see police violence is being exported. We’re seeing the ‘War on Drugs’, which has messed up Colombia the same way it messed up Black communities across the U.S.,” said Omar Flores of FRSO. “We also see a cracking down on unions. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist because they get killed off so often. That kind of violent anti-union sentiment was born and bred right here in the U.S.”

Flores went on, “So it’s important that we’re here because it’s clear we have the same exact enemy: the terrorist U.S. government. We all need to unite against them.”

Other speakers highlighted the similarities between the fight against police and other state-sanctioned violence against the people from Milwaukee to Cali (Colombia), where alone there have been 35 civilian deaths at the hands of police, military and paramilitary forces since April 28.

The weapons being used by Duque’s far-right government can be traced directly back to the U.S., and specifically to political actors like current President Joe Biden. The U.S. government tried to couch their support for Colombian death squads in ‘War on Drugs’ rhetoric, but 20 years of history tells a different story. The riot police murdering people in the streets today are directly tied to this policy.

“The riot police in Colombia would not exist if not for Plan Colombia that gave $9 billion to the Colombian military. This is what birthed ESMAD,” said Aurelia Ceja, the chair of education for the Milwaukee Alliance. Ceja noted that the U.S. and its political tools “will mobilize against the working class of any country for the sake of profit margins over people. Today we stand here knowing that this is not just Colombia’s fight, but our responsibility as well.”

The commitment to solidarity by the people at the rally and during the march afterward was strong. There is no resolution to the current crisis forthcoming, but the Colombian people are resolved to fight it out until they are victorious.

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