BOGOTA – Colombian public school teachers protested on Wednesday in several parts of the country to demand that the government improve their health care and social security adding their support to the strike by peasant farmers that was launched on Monday.
In Bogota, hundreds of teachers marched downtown from 72nd Street shouting slogans in defense of social rights and against certain national and capital government policies.
“We’re demanding ... a decent health care service for teachers and our families. There are no medications in the clinics. We teachers have to go out and buy them so that they can treat us in emergencies,” Alex Matallana, one of those attending the demonstration, told EFE.
Matallana added that the dates for regular checkups are scheduled “five or six months” in the future and, in addition, treatment that they should be receiving “by law” is being denied to the strikers.
Among those joining the protest were members of groups such as the District Association of Educators, the CUT workers union, the Congress of the Peoples movement and the leftist Patriotic Union party.
The demonstrators also rejected the possible privatization of the Bogota Telephone Company, or ETB, the capital city hall’s plans to urbanize the Van der Hammen nature preserve and the fact – they said – that the government has failed to fulfill promises to the peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
“We’re also supporting the agrarian strike, supporting the public employee comrades of the ETB, we’re against not building the Metro. Bogota needs the Metro,” said Matallana, referring to a decision by Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa.
Some of the signs carried by the demonstrators bore statements like “Against massive layoffs and the sale of the ETB,” “Education is a right, not a business” and “In fighting, we’re also educating.”
Demonstration organizers used loudspeakers to chant slogans such as “Peñalosa: Don’t sell what’s not yours” and “We’re demanding respect for labor, respect for peasants, better health care from this bad government.”
The Fecode education workers federation called the strike on May 20 to protest the government’s education policies and the “terrible” health care service received by teachers and their families.