Colombian farmers prepare for new wave of strikes

Farmers agree to new strikes over unfulfilled promises to the agricultural sector. Previous actions in August and September last year, paralyzed Colombia by strangling highway traffic and communications about Bogota and another 15 departments.

Colombian farmers prepare for new wave of strikes

World Bulletin / News Desk

Colombian farmers and agricultural workers are preparing for a new wave of nationwide strikes, set for April 28, claiming the government of President Juan Manuel Santos has failed to fulfil promises made to farmers in the aftermath of the strikes of 2013.

The upcoming actions threaten to be a repeat of those which occurred in August and September last year, known as the “paro agrario” or “agricultural strike,” which paralyzed Colombia by strangling highway traffic and communications about Bogota and another 15 departments.

The 2013 blockades, supported and organized by student bodies, farmers, coffee growers and truck drivers, were lifted only when the government agreed to negotiate terms after more than 30 days of demonstrations.

“This mobilization is to show that nothing has been done to help cereal growers, to control the price of fertilizers, stop contraband imported from neighboring countries and protect the production of sugar and ethanol,” said Roberto Correa, leader of Dignidad Agropecuaria (the movement for the dignity of farming, agriculture and livestock industries).

Current plans are to block key arteries around major cities and stage marches within the cities themselves.

With Colombian presidential elections set for May 25, any strikes could have an impact on the outcome. But representatives of Colombia’s agricultural sector claim the demonstrations are only to highlight the abandonment of the agricultural sector in general and demand subsidies, credits and price balances, all of which were items previously agreed upon but which have seen no action from the government.

“We are not getting involved in the politics of President Santos’ reelection,” said Oscar Gutierrez, leader of the Movimiento Dignidad Cafetera (Movement for the Dignity of Coffee Growers).

There are also talks between politicians and representatives of indigenous and afro Colombian groups about joining the planned actions to campaign for the redistribution of land, the peace process and for a share of the economic benefits from the mining boom currently taking place in Colombia.

Land reform and a readjustment of benefits for the agricultural sector have long been a source of discord in Colombia and are seen as one of the reasons for the long running civil conflict. Agrarian reform, including a debate about international free trade agreements signed by the Santos government, was the first point on the agenda for the peace dialogues between the government and the FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which have been taking place since 2012 in Havana, Cuba.

“A further strike would do irreparable damage to the country and to the farmers themselves,” said President Santos in a press release. “There are some sectors, which for political reasons are still talking about striking but I cannot believe that this is justifiable. The farming and livestock industries have enjoyed an above average growth of 5.2 percent, which is greater than that of the economy in general which grew 4.3 percent in 2013.”

Last Mod: 17 Nisan 2014, 11:00
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