Colombia’s prosecutor general is preparing arrest warrants for the leaders of the ongoing coffee strike in the south-central Huila department, a local ombudsman told Colombia Reports Wednesday.
“The Prosecutor General is preparing arrest warrants to capture the leaders of the strike,” said the ombudsman of Neiva (capital of Huila) Jesus Elias Meneses.
According to the ombudsman, riot police continued to commit “arbitrary acts” against protestors in various municipalities across the department. Meneses said that police have indiscriminately lobbed tear gas grenades and restricted the protestors’ right to free movement.
“We know they sent a big squadron [to Garzon, Huila]…to evict them… yesterday [Tuesday] they continued throwing [tear] gas…and today they are throwing gas from helicopters and continue to intimidate the protestors,” said the ombudsman.
Demonstrators were on their way back to Neiva from a Tuesday protest, said Meneses, when police arbitrarily stopped them “for almost an hour in the middle of the road.”
The coffee strikes in Huila and other southern departments have been marred by violence. Several videos showing what appears to be excessive police force have been shared on several social media websites.
Colombia’s prosecutor general on Wednesday ordered investigations into 70 alleged “disturbances” committed by protestors at various times during the coffee strike. According to preliminary reports, 30 formal investigations had been opened in the departments of Antioquia, Cauca, Huila, Caldas, Tolima and Valle del Cauca. One person had already been apprehended Wednesday for “obstructing public roads.”
Meanwhile, Meneses said that his office was getting ready to receive a slew of complaints from strikers about the tactics employed by riot police.
“We are [getting ready] to begin receiving complaints and formal denunciations with video material [from demonstrators],” he said.
Approximately 90,000 coffee farmers have been protesting since February 25 in departments all across the country over what they perceive is a lack of financial support from the government during this tough time for one of Colombia’s iconic industries. On numerous occasions, the government expressed an eagerness to sit down with the protestors to iron out an agreement, but claimed that a prerequisite to do so was that the strikers had to stop blocking roads. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, a government envoy led by vice president Angelino Garzon, was meeting with protest leaders in the central Risaralda department.
“Today, there has to be a solution to the coffee strike,” said the Vice President.
- Interview with Jesus Elias Meneses, the Ombudsman of Neiva, Huila.
- Fiscalia investiga a 70 personas por desordenes durante paros (El Tiempo)