Colombian farmers take to Bogota streets ahead of new national strike

Posted on Mar 17 2014 - 4:57pm by Rico
(Photo: Vanguardia Liberal)

Approximately 30,000 Colombian farmers and rural protesters took to the streets of Bogota Monday demanding the government fulfill previous promises and take steps to address the dire conditions facing the Colombian countryside.

Representatives from Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities worked with thousands of “campesino” — rural farmer — organizers to revive a mass 2013 protest movement that shut down much of the country last fall and drew unprecedented national attention to the steady erosion of the rural lifestyle.

MORE: Months after major riots, Colombia’s farmers declare Monday a day of protest in Bogota

One of the key farm organizers, Cesar Pachon, told Colombia reports that the government has not only failed to deliver on a number of promises it made to end last year’s protests, which led to a violent and widespread crackdown on the part of public security forces, but that it had also signed agreements in the meantime that went directly against the spirit of the protestors’ complaints.

Panchon mentioned the 2014 Pacific Alliance trade pact in particular as an example of the deepening free trade economic practices the protesters claim is threatening their livelihood.

“Those [agreements] erased many of the proposals that we had agreed to for the protection of our food and our domestic production,” Pachon said.

He added that the representatives of the government are unlikely to meet the protesters on Monday as they continue to march in the thousands to Bogota’s central Bolivar Square.

According to organizers, the protests also look to highlight the lack of progress made toward general development in rural communities, many of which lack basic services like medicine and security, Blu Radio reported.

Agrarian leaders announced the latest round of protests Sunday following the second day of the National Agrarian Summit, which brought together some 4,000 organizers and community representatives to formalize a list of demands and discuss long-term strategy.

Despite government assurances to the contrary, protest leaders say that the timelines agreed to following last years protests are not being met.

“Sure there have been some progress made in these issues, but only in some indigenous cases, and in October they [the government] said the promises made would be accomplished by January or February this year [2014], and they haven’t been,” protest and indigenous leader Feliciano Valencia told Blu Radio on Monday.

At the culmination of the day-long march, protest leaders are expected to announce a new nationwide agrarian strike similar to the one last year. In an interview with Colombia Reports last week, Pachon stated that the new strikes would take place at the end of April or beginning of May, a precarious time for President Juan Manuel Santos, who strives for re-election in May 25 presidential elections.

According to El Espectador newspaper, 3,000 policemen were deployed throughout the city to oversee the protests, which have been uniformly peaceful as of the time this article was published


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