The prospect of another nationwide strike is looming in Colombia’s near future, as the nation’s agriculture sector continues to face what the minister of agriculture recently referred to as “disastrous” conditions.
In August and September of last year, a series of agricultural work stoppages and protests froze entire regional economies and roadways, leading to violent clashes between protesters and security forces and prompting large-scale demonstrations in Colombia’s urban centers.
Now the labor and social organizers behind last fall’s unrest are scheduled to meet in the capital of Bogota on March 15 and 16 to discuss their collective grievances and set a date for a new round of strikes and protests.
The summit will reportedly bring together some 4,000 representatives from rural farming, fishing and mining groups and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities throughout the country with the purpose of strengthening national dialogue and presenting a revised list of demands to the government, which organizers say has failed to comply with previous agreements and promises.
To address what Colombian Juan Manuel Santos eventually acknowledged to be the social and economic “crisis” affecting the Colombian countryside, protesters had called for such diverse measures as guaranteed subsidies of crops, price reductions for fuel and fertilizer and an immediate end to free trade policies and large-scale mining concessions.
In September, the government announced its own unilateral proposal in an attempt to quell raging protests, but after several weeks of discussions with strike leaders, no agreements were reached on the protester’s central demands. Since then, protesters say the government has not made good faith efforts to fulfill its own stated promises or engage organizers in active discussion.
On Monday, March 17, at the close of the summit, the participants will march towards the Plaza de Bolivar, expecting as many 20 thousand people join in a renewed push for agrarian reform.