New agricultural strike would cause ‘terrible damage’ to Colombia: Santos

Juan Manuel Santos (Photo: President's Office)

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos asked farmers on Tuesday to call off agricultural strikes planned a month before May’s election as this, according to the president, would harm the both the country and the farmers.

The coffee farmers announced on Monday that they will join a national farmers strike in April to push the government to keep promises made during a series of strikes that hit several economic sectors throughout 2013 and killed more than a dozen in clashes with police.

”There is no justification for it [the strike]” 

MORE: Colombia coffee farmers to join new agricultural strike on April 28

Santos said in a press release that ”When things get difficult, dialogue helps solving the problems, dialogue prevents violence, dialogue prevents people or segments of society from taking actions.”

“No justification for strike”

The Colombian president said ”there is no justification” for an agrarian strike that “will terribly damage the country and the farmers themselves” if carried out.

”Instead, what I asked you  — and what has fortunately had a good response — is: participate more in the elaboration of the Agrarian Pact. This Agrarian Pact is a very important pact for the future of the agricultural industry and the future of the country” said Santos in the press release.

According to the president, the Agrarian Pact is significant because it aims to “involve farmers, and make them political participants which the country requires if its rural areas are to overcome ostracism and underdevelopment.”

The national government closed this agrarian pact with municipal government and large federations last year. However, this pact proved of little substance after farmers refused to take part, claiming the federations and government do not have the rural workers’ best interest in mind.

Instead, the government was forced to negotiate with the farmers’ own representatives to end strikes in March and August.

Santos claims promises were kept, farmers say opposite is true

According to Santos, his administration largely honored the agreements made with the farmers last year. According to the government it has not been able to honor all agreements as some were not meant to take immediate effect.

MORE: Angry Farmers Leave Colombia’s Presidential Palace Wearing Bulletproof Vests

In an attempt to avert another potentially massive strike, the president said that he instructed his cabinet to formulate an “agrarian development bill” which he claims to be “very important” for the farmers. Santos also pointed out that the investments that he supported in the agricultural sector are the highest in history, reaching 2.6 million dollars.

According to the farmers however, the government broke its promises regarding the imports of products and fertilizers by signing trade agreements with the local economic block the Pacific Alliance.

MORE: Months After Major Riots, Colombia’s Farmers Declare Monday A Day Of Protest In Bogota


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