Farmers from three departments in the southwest and center of Colombia announced on Saturday that they will end a strike that has effectively shut down parts of the South American country for almost three weeks.
The strikers signed an agreement with Colombia’s new Interior Minister, Aurelio Iragorri, in which the government vows to improves farmers’ access to credit, lower prices of supplies, and reiterates its intention to limit food imports from other Latin American countries and freeze a controversial law banning the use of self-grown, non-certified seeds.
Additionally, the government and the regional farmers agreed to involve farmers’ organizations in the adapting of existing and the development of new policies that are part of a so-called Program for the Reactivation of the National Agriculture.
The struck deal was not made with the national strike organizers, who the government accused of having a broader political agenda, but with the regional organizations of strikes in the departments of Boyaca, Nariño and Cundinamarca.
Also in Huila, the government secured a success after farmers agreed to lift roadblocks.
Strikes in other departments were not lifted.
The agreement with the farmers came nearly three weeks after a national agriculture strike that was accompanied by an accumulation of economic sectors all claiming the state had abandoned their sector or claiming the government had failed to fulfill promises made following earlier labor disputes.
The massive strikes that spurred violence between protesters and police was followed by a major drop in popular support for President Juan Manuel Santos‘ administration that subsequently forced the head of state to replace his chief of staff and the ministers for the interior, justice, agriculture, mining and environment.
“The most important thing of this popular revolution is that we succeeded in waking up the country and make the government accept that the countryside is in crisis because of their fault,” strike leader Cesar Pachon was quoted as saying by newspaper El Tiempo.
The farmers said to not take part in Santos’ announced Grand National Pact for agriculture, because according to the strikers this body will be attended by the Colombian Society of Agrarians and the federations of agrarian sectors, none of who had been able to represent the interests of their members.
The farmers from Boyaca, Nariño and Cundinamarca agreed to meet with the government again on September 16 to secure the realization of made agreements. Meanwhile, the Santos administration will have to attend the demands of other regional farmers’ bodies.