Protests can be a great way to get a point across peacefully. Typically, they occur without any pain and suffering and an agreement is met at some point. In Columbia, we guess they do things a little differently.
Several ex-workers at GM plants in Columbia started protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to settle a grievance. The charges that the ex-workers are seeking reparation for are being fired after getting injured on the job and failure of the company to cover the resulting medical expenses. These workers now want GM to pay the medical bills and provide help to ousted workers in finding new employers.
Both requests seem typical of a protest, but recently the protest has taken an eerie turn, as the workers have gone on a hunger strike. How are they proving they aren’t eating? Well, they have literally sewn their mounts shut with needle and thread.
Their mouths are bound just tight enough to not allow food through, but loose enough for them to mumble out their points. Today would mark the 20th day these workers have gone without food and, according to the protesters, they are willing to die for their cause. If you look closely at the images, these guys have IVs in their hands and arms, so we are curious if they are getting nutrition and liquids fed to them intravenously. Regardless, they have to be getting fluids somehow, as you cannot survive 21 days without water.
The amount of time you can live without food varies, depending on your body, but somber examples – Northern Ireland protests in 1981 – have shown you can live up to 73 days without food.
GM’s response to these protests? "GM Colmotores is respectful of the law and has never put the health or the well-being of its employees at risk," GM said. "Furthermore, the company would like to reassure and reaffirm that no employee has been discharged for health reasons."
The protesting workers state that GM is taking advantage of the country’s lenient labor laws to get away with not providing compensation for medical costs and firing them. Some of the protestors have undergone years of injuries and costly surgeries and now find themselves without a job and drowning in medical debt.
Let’s just hope this gets itself sorted out by GM stepping up or the ex-workers putting a stop to this starvation protest. Are medical bills and unemployment really worth losing your life?