Equity is honoured to have met with our Latin American sister unions, human rights activists, trade unionists and government officials, as part of a delegation organised with Justice for Colombia and a conference of the Latin American group of the International Federation of Actors (FIA LA) this week.
International solidarity has been at the heart of Equity’s mission since we were founded in 1930. Over the last century, we have established an international federation of unions to campaign for artists’ freedom and organise for better working conditions in the performing arts and entertainment across the world. We have offered practical solidarity to performing artists boycotting apartheid in South Africa, escaping the dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, or seeking sanctuary from conflicts in Palestine and Ukraine. We have sought to defend artistic expression everywhere. This work is essential to Equity’s aim of delivering good work for all artists, good art for all workers, and equity to all people.
Equity’s delegation was welcomed at many meetings this week in Bogotá and Cali, including with human rights activists and organisations such as REDDHFIC in Cali and Lazos de Dignidad in Bogota, as well as the communities that they support who were falsely arrested, imprisoned or left severely disabled by the police during 2021’s protests against inequality and conflict, commonly known as the Social Explosion. We also met the parents of young people killed by police during these protests, and those still trying to free their children from imprisonment on false charges. Additionally, we visited former FARC guerrillas in Colombia now working to advance the peace process and build a cooperative economy.
We have witnessed how the neoliberal erosion of the state, global drug prohibition, and foreign intervention have conspired to create a hostile environment for communities here seeking peace, dignity and basic freedoms. Thousands of political activists – including human rights activists, community activists and trade unionists – have been killed in recent decades and continue to be killed here today. This is despite ongoing efforts by the government of Gustavo Petro and civil society to implement a lasting peace for all the peoples of Colombia through the Total Peace policy of promoting dialogue with armed groups and fully implementing the 2016 agreement with the FARC. We were pleased to meet with Senator María José Pizarro from the Historic Pact coalition, who, as Vice-President of the Senate, is working to progress these vital efforts.
A visit to La Candelaria theatre to meet social activists and theatre workers, alongside meetings with our Colombian sister unions and the CUT trade union federation, highlighted how performing artists and creative practitioners are forced to navigate these dangers as they organise for better pay and conditions in our industries. We discussed the importance of the labour reform and other social reforms to genuinely improve the lives of working people, highlighting the need to support the government’s progressive agenda in the face of hostile opposition in congress.
Creative practitioners in Colombia struggle with poor pay, extreme working hours, and a lack of decent social security provision. These colleagues are too often exploited by vast, global production companies who seek to play Spanish-speaking workers across the continent off one another, continually depressing wages and undermining basic rights in each nation, while enjoying significant government tax breaks. The progress over just ten years of the Asociación Colombiana de Actores (ACA) to build a fighting actors’ union in Colombia that can address these structural conditions is of great inspiration to Equity’s delegation.
Over our week in Colombia, we have been deeply struck by the bravery, determination, and passionate commitment of performing artists, workers, and community activists resisting injustices here. Equity offers its unwavering solidarity as their struggles continue, towards justice in Colombia for all.