Colombian rural leaders prematurely walked out of a protocolary photo shoot with President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday, leaving the presidential palace wearing bullet proof vests instead of their traditional “ruana” in protest.
In a show of defiance to Santos, the farmers, who said they had been requested by the President’s Office to come to the shoot in traditional clothing, removed their “ruana” ponchos and displayed the bullet proof vests they wear underneath in a show of the measures they must go to to ensure their own safety.
Pictures surfaced of rural leader Cesar Pachon in the bullet-proof vests with the slogan “they want to kill me..for defending the rights of the farmers” written on masking tape emblazoned across his chest.
According to farmers’ leader, he was separated from his colleagues when entering the Palace, and entrance was granted only to Pachon.
“This is not how it will be Santos, we want all or nothing … We will not be used simply as tool to aid your re-election,” said Pachon.
The meeting came days after thousands of members of the agricultural sector marched peacefully through Colombia’s capital of Bogota in a demonstration against failed promises made by the Santos administration to improve the agriculture sector.
Their grievances include incomplete development of rural schools, healthcare, and the protection of the agricultural industry.
If the demands of the protesters are not met, a new nationwide strike, similar to protests in August 2013, will take place in March or early April.
In August and September of 2013, 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.
The previous bout of strikes came to an end with Santos admitting that “there is a crisis in the agricultural sector… a crisis we have to face, and one from which we are going to move forward, because this country has an immense potential in that sector.”
As of yet no new plans to aid the agricultural sector have been made.
- Image of Vest Wearers (Facebook)
- Ministro de Agricultura admite crisis agraria en el país (El Tiempo)
- Reforma agraria de Santos (El Espectador)
- Agricultural Reform (President’s Office)