06.05.2002 (Alfredo Castro, ANNCOL Colombia) 10,000 workers and students participated in a joint demonstration on May 1st in the southern city of Cali to protest government policies and US intervention in Colombia. The protesters called on the government to follow a policy of peace rather than war and to end the economic liberalisation and privatisation policies that have led to increases in both unemployment and poverty.
During the morning of the march military intelligence agents were spotted filming and photographing the crowds and others were found to have infiltrated the march. When leading unionists demand that they be stopped and detained a special riot unit of the police violently attacked them.
Among those most seriously injured was Jesus Antonio Gonzalez, national human rights director of the CUT trade union federation who was beaten unconscious and had to be rushed into intensive care. His bodyguards were also attacked and threatened and the police confiscated their weapons leaving Gonzalez, who has appeared third on a national paramilitary death list, open to an assassination attempt.
Others beaten and injured by the police included Luis Hernandez Monroy, the president of the SINTRAEMCALI trade union, Alexander Lopez, the newly elected progressive member of Congress for Cali and Ariel Diaz, the CUT human rights officer for the department of Valle del Cauca.
Numerous other protesters, unionists and students were also attacked and beaten by the police and Alvaro Pulido, a leader of the UNEB bank workers union was taken away by the police and remains in custody. In the town of Yumbo, near Cali, other unionists, holding their own march, were also attacked.
It is feared that the military intelligence agents involved were selecting and photographing individuals for assassination as many of those targeted have already received death threats.
So far this year 65 trade union leaders have been assassinated by the army's paramilitary death squads, adding to the 191 murdered last year.