Colombia govt reopens dialogue with farmers as strikes called off for elections

(Photo: El Espectador)

Talks between the Colombian government and striking farm-workers recommenced Monday, as strike leaders announced a temporary suspension of protest activities, national media reported.

Organizers from 14 statewide branches of the so-called “Agrarian Dignity” (Dignidad Agropecuaria) movement will meet with representatives of the Agriculture and Finance Ministries and the Agrarian Bank, among others, Caracol Radio reported. The government had call off its negotiations with the farmers 12 days earlier, ostensibly after protests grew violent in the southern part of the country.

During the first round of talks, the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the strikers’ demand that small farm debt be refinanced.

MORE: Colombia’s government and farmers suspend strike talks

According to one of the local union leaders, this week’s talks will deal with the issues of inputs costs and fertilizers, another of the major factors behind the nationwide strikes, which broke out April 28 of this year and consist of many of the same actors behind a similar nationwide movement last fall.

The financial insolvency of Colombia’s small and medium-scale farmers in particular is largely due to unsustainable production costs, the protesters claim.

This most recent nationwide strike on the part of national miner and farm-worker organizations was declared because of the government’s alleged failure to comply with promises made to end a similar strike that began last August and saw at least 12 deaths, hundreds of arrests, widespread accusations of human rights violations, and the protracted shutdown of certain regional economies.

The strike is suspended

Cesar Pachon, spokesman for Agrarian Dignity in the central state of Boyaca, told Colombia Reports that the national strike will be suspended until the end of the presidential election period: either May 25 or June 15th, depending on whether an expected second-round election runoff is necessary.

“Farmers want to express our deep respect to democracy”

“We are accused of interfering with the elections and we don’t want that, we’re apolitical,” Pachon told Colombia Reports. Notwithstanding, the strike leader did make a call to the presidential candidates, calling them to stop fighting and focus on the numerous and chronic problems affecting the Colombian countryside.

MORE: Uribe-loyal election candidate called to ‘immediately’ resign after video reveals spy links

In a communicate posted on social media on May 17,  Pachon announced that the strikes will be held in abeyance during the presidential elections as “farmers want to express our deep respect to democracy.”

Pachon, however, made it clear that the strike is in recess and not called off as farmers will continue fighting for their rights and their demands, until the government can address the numerous and chronic problems facing the Colombian countryside.

He went on to highlight a few of the achievements made so far by the striking farmers, including a reported budget increase that will see agricultural spending go from $936 million to $ 2.709 billion.


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