Following two weeks of escalating protests of thousands of local farmers, local media on Sunday reported that two protesters had been killed.
The two-week-long protests in Norte de Santander department worsened after police opened fire at demonstrators on Friday, human rights NGO Lawyer’s Collective Jose Alvear Restrepo said in a press release.
Additionally, doctors at a hospital in the town of Ocaña said it had additionally received seven injured protesters and five injured members of security forces which had been sent to the region to control the protests
At least 1o,000 farmers belonging to the seven municipalities of the embattled Catatumbo region have been taking part in the protests that erupted on June 10. The farmers are demanding the government define the area as a semi-autonomous rural reserve zone, and temporary stop the eradication of coca crops as the protesters claim those growing coca do not have been offered alternatives to provide for their families.
Local Ombudsman delegate Carmen Ligia Galvis said that the situation had worsened after two groups of peasants from different municipalities joined in the municipality of Tibu.
The protesters accused police of intimidation and excessive violence. Local news organizations have also said to have been threatened by police.
“It was a violent response by the Government to whom we hold responsible for all these events,” local Juan Carlos Quintero told Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina.
Weekly Semana reported Sunday that protesters had set fire to the Mayor’s Office and the local prosecution office in Tibu, while police claimed the riots had been infiltrated by the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, who exercise strong control in the area.
The FARC, whose leader “Timochenko” is believed to be operating from Catatumbo, sent out a statement calling on authorities to lower the level of violence. Authorities generally say protests have been infiltrated by the rebel group.
“We are getting impatient by the difficult situation in the Catatumbo and therefore we hope soon to meet with the President, Juan Manuel Santos, to give a peaceful solution to all these problems,” Governor Edgar Diaz Contreras said last week.
Moreover, the governor called on the protesters to stop damaging infrastructure as he stated it only hindered the development of a peaceful solution.
“We reject the violence generated in the municipalities of Tibu and Ocaña, against official institutions, authorities and the community and invite to calm, consultation and dialogue to achieve solutions that will ensure the prosperity and development of the Catatumbo region,” he said.
Tibu, Norte de Santander
- CONTINÚAN MANIFESTACIONES DE LÍDERES CAMPESINOS, AHORA EN LA VÍA A LA COSTA ATLÁNTICA (Norte de Santander department)
- Protesta en el Catatumbo puede terminar en tragedia (El Espectador)
- Campesinos del Catatumbo advierten que la protesta puede terminar en “tragedia” (Radio W)
- Protests Worsens in Northern Colombia (Prensa Latina)
- Las protestas campesinas en el Catatumbo se cobran los dos primeros muertos (W Radio)
- Reportaje: por qué arde el Catatumbo (Semana)