Colombian farmers announced Thursday plans to leave the negotiating table with the government, with a possible return to protest, after failing to reach any significant agreements in a month and a half of talks over a rural economic crisis.
The announcement comes after farmers sat down with President Juan Manuel Santos last month to end a three week long widespread strike, which shut down highways in much of the country and led to a number of violent clashes with riot police.
Farm leader Cesar Pachon told media that the government had failed to meet any of the farmers’ demands that led to the talks: improve farmers’ access to credit, lower prices of supplies, and limit food imports, leading organizers to “break” talks with the government. He said they would announce next week whether or not they would return to the streets for strikes.
“We left the table because the government has been pulling our leg the whole time and we don’t believe in more promises,” said Pachon. “If we must strike again, we will do so… We would rather give our lives on the highway than die of starvation on the farm.”
Santos has responded saying the government has been holding up its end of the deal in the negotiations and called the possible return to strike “irresponsible” and “unjustifiable” because of the high economic cost caused by the protests over the summer.
During the August agricultural strikes that drew tens of thousands of protesters, five farmers were killed in clashes with police, while 485 people reportedly were injured. Four farmers disappeared during the protests.