Government representatives and peasant leaders from the northeastern Colombian Catatumbo region resumed talks on Tuesday, but failed to come to an agreement to end social unrest in the troubled region.
Following almost a month of social unrest and clashes with police, a delegation of the government traveled to the city of Tibu to meet with peasant leaders who are demanding increased autonomy through so-called peasant reserves and schemes to help farmers now growing coca to switch to alternative crops.
Before talks began, both parties softened their tone to break the apparent deadlock; the farmers agreed to meet with government representatives other than President Juan Manuel Santos and the government delegation acknowledged the government has historically neglected the region which has become a hotbed of guerrilla activity and drug trafficking.
Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo, who had previously condemned the protests and accused protesters of ties to rebel group FARC, told reporters before the meeting that “what the government has done is respond to the concerns of the residents of Catatumbo with social proposals … This is an opportunity to take care of this region of the country, because we owe them.”
Nevertheless, the two delegations were not able to reach an agreement after 10 hours of talks.
“It’s safe to conclude there was no progress whatsoever. We were [talking about] the issue of the peasant reserve zone. Within the government you see no will to progress. They don’t want to specify a route of procedures for the establishment of this zone,” strike leader Juan Carlos Quintero told Colombian news agency Colprensa.
While no apparent progress was made, both parties agreed to continue conversations on Wednesday.
The situation in Catatumbo escalated over the past few weeks when weeks after peaceful protests began, local farmers began blocking roads and riot police were sent to the area. In clashes that followed, four farmers were killed and some 50 people — farmers and policemen alike — were injured.
The Catatumbo region, located at the Venezuelan border, is one of the most troubled regions in Colombia as it has become a major hub for drug trafficking to Venezuela and leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN exercise strong control in the remote area.
- Diálogo no encuentra solución a crisis en Catatumbo (Colprensa)
- Gobierno busca freno a crisis en el Catatumbo (Colprensa)
- Gobiernos Nacional y territorial de Norte de Santander estructuraron ofertas para atender problemática social en el Catatumbo (Interior Ministry)
- Policía amenaza con seguir masacrando campesinos en el Catatumbo (Agencia Prensa Rural)