Colombia’s President has announced the imminent creation of a “grand national pact” designed to address the problems faced by the country’s agricultural sector.
President Juan Manuel Santos, speaking on Friday evening after a long meeting with governors and mayors of regional capitals, announced they would reconvene on September 12th to give content to the so-called “Grand National Pact for the Agricultural Sector and Rural Development.”
“We are all aware of the needs of the farmers, of the structural crisis that Colombia’s agricultural sector is going through, the roots of which go a long way back,” Santos said, adding that the pact will “convert the agricultural sector not into a backwater of poverty and inequality, but into a center of fairness and prosperity.”
According to Santos, when the officials meet again in September it will give the pact “definitive form.” He was keen to point out that the pact would have to be “inclusive,” created with the help of “all the farmers, country businessmen, and other actors who play a role in rural development.”
Many of the country’s farmers have been striking since Monday 19th in protest against, among other things, the fall in the price of their produce thanks to free trade agreements and lax control on illegal contraband.
Santos views the current crisis as the product of a series of “failed policies, of decades of abandonment, that has recently exploded in our hands.” The protests descended into violence on Thursday afternoon with fighting between protesters and the police, especially in Colombia’s two main cities, Bogota and Medellin. In response, the President ordered the militarization of Bogota.
On Friday, in an attempt to defuse the situation, farmers from the departments of Boyaca, Nariño, and Cundinamarca agreed to remove the roadblocks they’d setup in their respective departments. Santos reportedly views the removal of roadblocks as a prerequisite for resuming talks with the strikers, which he had suspended earlier the same day.