Colombian farmers and miners on Monday began their first day of national strikes over the government’s alleged failure to comply with promises made after similar strikes in August that left five dead, and hundreds hospitalized or in jail.
The strike comes less than a month before presidential elections and could possibly become a game-changer for President Juan Manuel Santos who is ahead in the polls, but has lost terrain to his opponents, making a second round likely.
A meeting between Agriculture Minister Ruben Dario Lizarralde and strike leaders on Friday led to no result except the minister’s claim that this strike round lacks general support of the rural population, which came out in hundreds of thousands to participate in the initial strike round.
According to the Ministry, farmers from the central state of Boyaca — where strikes were among the widespread in August — sent Lizarralde a message saying they do not support the strike and fear the damage to their livelihood.
Santos on Sunday said that he will refuse to negotiate with agricultural leaders while the strike is ongoing, reiterating the protests will do harm to the country.
On Monday, the presidential website and social media outlets reiterated Santos’ commitment to the countryside.
The strike leaders have consistently denied this, claiming they are striking exactly because of Santos’ lack of commitment.
According to National Police director Rodolfo Palomino, the government deployed more than 10,000 policemen to prevent that the strikes disturb public order or take action of the farmers decide to put up roadblocks.
The government warned it would not allow a repetition of the August strikes when the farmers virtually shut down parts of the country by blocking roads.
- Interviews with strike leaders
- Campesinos de Boyacá manifiestan a MinAgricultura que no quieren el paro (Agriculture Ministry)
- Gobernadores realizan un nuevo llamado para evitar el Paro Agrario (President’s Office)
- Nos alistamos para el paro (Marcha Patriotica)