Colombia’s Petro looks to validate reforms with May Day march

Members of the Nasa indigenous peoples in Bogotá's Plaza de Boleivar. Photo: Richard Emblin

President Gustavo Petro has called on the indigenous Minga to mobilize and reach the Colombian capital ahead of his planned May Day rally. An estimated 3,000 members of the Nasa and Embera communities are heading to the Colombian capital in their rural buses from the departments of Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Nariño, to join some 500 indigenous peoples already living in a makeshift encampment in Bogotá’s Parque Nacional.

Wednesday’s May 1 demonstration in support of President Petro aims to counterbalance the huge anti-government protests held nationwide on April 26. After the historic protest, in which an estimated one million Colombians marched in protest over the reforms of the leftist administration, President Petro wants to regain control of the street and has vowed to accompany the May Day rally “with or without a stage.” The leftist leader then went on to claim on his “X” account that “many times they have tried to silence me and the people. To avoid this, we have megaphones.”

Rallying his base to join the May Day march in Bogotá, and one that will be accompanied by the Indigenous Guard, President Petro is using the street as his political barometer. May Day will then be peddled on social media to discredit the opposition and the “ruling classes” who marched on April 26.

Having downplayed the numbers of the persons who protested against his government, from the estimated one million to tens of thousands, President Petro will justify the International Worker’s Day marches to pressure Congress to approve his labor and pension reforms, as well as revive his health reform that was stymied in the Senate.

With the usual cast of trade unions and left-wing parties and movements participating on May 1, demonstrators will hoist flags of Comunes (the political party of ex-FARC) and M-19. As a former combatant of the M-19, President Petro has been commemorating on social media the death of the organization’s last commander Carlos Pizarro (June 6, 1951 – April 26, 1990). Pizarro was assassinated inside a commercial airliner months after the M-19 guerrilla demobilized in December 1989.

Brandishing the memory of Pizarro during public events, including the unveiling of the M-19 flag during a visit to the San Juan Bautista de La Salle school in Zipaquirá, President Petro wants youngsters to envision the former Marxist guerrilla as a national hero and whitewash the organization’s responsibility in committing one of the most horrific episodes in recent Colombian history – the storming of the Palace of Justice in 1985.

“Bring out that flag, comrade, for today we celebrate. They may not like it, but it won’t stay hidden under mattresses,” stated Petro on the 34th anniversary of Pizarro’s death. “As a young person who once aspired to change the world, he (Pizarro) evolved into a crusader for peace, shaping Colombia’s destiny with his sacrifice,” remarked the Colombian President to an auditorium filled with students and teachers. “Our generation, molded by the M-19, remains steadfast. As Bolívar’s warriors, we honor our commitment,” highlighted Petro.

From historical revisionism to collective gaslighting on social media, President Petro will push the narrative that the true measure of his administration’s success comes down to the street, even if the street remains paved with empty promises of change.