Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC on Monday offered arms to demonstrating peasants in the northeast of Colombia. The peasants turned down the offer and asked Venezuela to offer them refuge instead.
The Catatumbo farmers have been protesting for weeks to demand more autonomy for their region, while demanding the government supply peasants with alternative crops before eradicating coca.
In a letter published on the rebels’ website, the FARC promised full support from “our ranks, our weapons and our fighters.”
“We are willing to meet you, to support you and lead you to final victory,” said the FARC.
The guerrilla group acknowledged that they are currently in negotiations with the Colombian government to end the armed conflict, but insisted that “while Colombian people are still violated like they are today, such an agreement is impossible.”
It is however, the support of Venezuela and not the support of the guerrilla group that peasants in the Catatumbo region seek.
After violent clashes with government forces leaving four farmers dead and dozens more injured, demonstrators hope to use international law to claim refuge in neighboring Venezuela.
In an open letter to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Catatumbo peasants said their basic rights have been repressed by the state and that their “claims and demands have not been heard” regarding their wish for the creation of the somewhat autonomous rural reserve zones.
“After recent statements made by Santos we anticipate that our protest will be severely repressed in the coming hours. This situation would affect thousands of vulnerable women, the elderly, the sick and children involved in the mobilization,” added the Catatumbo peasants.
“With this letter, we request that your government allows us to exercise international law to shelter. We welcome the Venezuelan organic law on refuges and exiles.”
“We thank you for your understanding, humanity and solidarity of the people and government of Venezuela to the peasantry of Catatumbo” added the letter.
Demonstrations in the region of Catatumbo are 42 days old this Monday and seek the creation of rural reserve zones and for the government to stop the destruction of coca.
Whilst protests began peacefully, the creation of road blocks led to violent clashes with security forces, leaving four dead and many injured. Such road blocks have also led to a shortage of food and fuel resulting in a humanitarian crisis.
- Campesinado del Catatumbo le solicita al Presidente Maduro refugio internacional (Association of Catatumbo Peasants)
- A los pobladores del Catatumbo (FARC-EP)