Following three weeks of agrarian strikes and protests in most of Colombia’s rural territory, the country’s vice president on Sunday struck a deal with the national farmers’ organization to end roadblocks.
Vice President Angelino Garzon, a former union leader, successfully concluded a meeting with representatives of MIA, the organization representing farmers who demand a change in Colombia’s agricultural and economic policies to effectively deal with an ongoing crisis in the countryside.
The deal with the national organization came only days after Colombia’s new interior minister successfully ended negotiations with regional strike leaders during which the farmers also agreed to lift roadblocks and the government vowed to adapt policies and seek extra funds to combat poverty in the countryside.
“We have agreed on a course of action in which the first point is the agreement of all MIA’s representatives to — starting now — begin a progressive and permanent process to put an end to the roadblocks that are ongoing on the respective sites,” Garzon told press.
The farmers confirmed they agreed to lift the roadblocks, but added that they would not lift the strike until final agreements are made with Bogota.
These agreements are supposed to be made during future talks between farmers and government.
According to agrarian news outlet Prensa Rural, the government agreed to discuss the six demands of the MIA presented in the weeks before the beginning of the strike.
The MIA asked the government to allow former President Ernesto Samper, Congress President Juan Fernando Cristo, opposition Representative Ivan Cepeda, Jesuit clergy Francisco de Roux and representatives of the United Nations to take part in the summit.
A plan created by President Juan Manuel Santos to hold a Grand National Pact was rejected by the farmers’ representatives who, like their regional colleagues, claimed the points of the pact “do not reflect the interests of the farming community.”
The agreement to end the roadblocks comes three weeks after the farmers began their countrywide protests that have killed several and injured hundreds as protesters and police clashed at roadblocks that were effectively isolating regions – particularly in the south – from the rest of the country.
“The 600 human rights violations, 485 injured, 12 assassinated farmers, 262 arbitrary detentions and 52 attacks and threats is the tragic balance of a strike that was dealt with through military means and could have been solved long time ago,” a farmer was quoted as saying by Spanish press agency EFE.
The widespread protests and broad popular support tanked Santos’ approval rating last week and forced the head of state to replace five ministers who carried responsibility for the situation in the countryside and the violent police response to the protests.