$10 billion in credits and subsidies have contributed to “unprecedented” growth of the agricultural sector, Colombia’s agricultural minister claimed on Wednesday as farmers are preparing a national strike.
This success allegedly marks a new approach taken by President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration, which has seen the Agricultural Ministry’s budget grow from $700 million in 2010 to a projected $2,6 billion in 2014.
Lizzarralde stated Santos has already provided $3,6 billion in subsidies and approved approximately $6,8 billion in loans.
Claims contradicted by farmers
The minister’s statements come days after thousands of rural workers peacefully marched through central Bogota to protest the government’s alleged failure to enact promises made last year to improve the economic situation in rural areas after farm workers massively took to the streets.
The protesters, led by agrarian leaders taking part in the National Agrarian Summit held in Bogota, outlined a list of “failed” promises made by the government in the fall of 2013. These include the rural development of schools, healthcare, and the protection of the agricultural industry.
According to protest leaders, Monday’s demonstrations through Bogota were used to highlight the shortcomings of the Santos government. A new nationwide strike, similar to protests last year, will take place in March or early April unless their demands are met.
Government needs time to meet commitments made
Despite Monday’s protests, the Agricultural Minister claims, “We have met” made commitments.
According to the Lazzaralde, out of the 183 commitments that the government initially made, 70 were met immediately. Progress on the remaining commitments is reportedly underway.
“We are interested in showing the country, the politicians, and all those who have participated in the social processes that we are complying. What we need is their [farmers] support to continue complying or to comply at a quicker pace,” says Lizzaralde.
As protest leader, Cesar Pachon, told Colombia Reports, “Whether or not there is a [nationwide] agrarian strike depends on President Juan Manuel Santos.”
The 2013 strikes paralyzed much of the country as community leaders, students, coffee growers, and other members of the agrarian sector protested through urban and regional areas demanding improvement of the situation in Colombia’s rural areas.