Protesting campesinos in the Catatumba farming region are preparing for further Colombian government repression as they continue an indefinite national strike, organizers said.
“Enough with the hatred against campesinos!” a statement circulated by the National Agricultural and Popular Table of Interlocution and Agreement said, alerting campesinos of continued repression from Mobile Anti-Riot Squads in the department of Santander.
The warning comes just days after the last militarized attack from riot police against a demonstration in northern Colombia, where at least 2,000 protesters of all ages had gathered.
Organizations across the country have denounced the aggressions targeting the agricultural sector, which have led to dozens of killings of campesino activists.
Protesters demand higher security for personal safety, in light of the over 100 deaths of social justice leaders in 2017 alone, and complete compliance with the peace agreement signed by the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the and ex-guerilla FARC.
During a press conference Friday, organizers of the indefinite national strike reaffirmed their resolve to continue the “permanent assembly,” carrying their mission “to every country road” until the government honors the agreement.
“Forced eradication in Buenaventura, Calima, Tulua, San Pedro, Dagua and militarized zones such as Jamundi are the truths of the state’s implementation (of the peace agreement), regardless of public demonstrations and signatures of agreements between communities, government and the FARC-EP for the voluntary and concerted substitution of crops,” representatives from the National Coordinator of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana said.
“At this moment the government does not want to comply, it only wants to eradicate, because the national government does not want the coca (growing) to end. If it were interested, it would opt to substitute crops, which is the only way to end illicit crops,” said COCCAM representative Edison Garces.
Garces went on to say efforts to suppress the movement through violence and fear only empowers and reaffirms the protests’ purpose, adding that the fact that the government is not interested in the plight of campesinos, only makes the public’s participation and determination more necessary.
“We do not want more dead social leaders; we do not want more stigmatization,” he said.
The organizations called on Santos to act, saying his indifference to the situation only perpetuates the violence. COCCAM said Santos needs to protect and respect the constitutional guarantees of those demanding that authorities fulfill the peace agreements signed in Havana, Cuba in 2016.