Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday said the government will be launching a humanitarian offensive to help those affected by protests in the northeast of the country.
The president was speaking at the end of a security council meeting in the Arauca department, in which he explained “in Catatumbo we do not want to enter by force as this would only inflict further damage, we have therefore chosen to launch a humanitarian offensive.”
“There are several institutions of the state helping the inhabitants of this area, who are suffering as innocent victims due to the attitude of those who do not want to lift the blockades that are in place” added President Juan Manuel Santos.
The president reiterated the order that road blocks are unacceptable, and defended the actions of the security forces.
“On 12 occasions we have attempted to unblock roads and in each of these situations, our forces have acted proportionately, respecting human rights protocols,” said Santos.
The United Nations previously condemned the deadly force used against the protesters.
Protests in the region of Catatumbo reached day 42 on Monday. What began as peaceful demonstrations by peasants seeking increased autonomy and alternative revenues to coca cultivation soon became violent, as farmers clashed with police sent in to unblock roads. Four farmers were killed have been killed in the violence.
The Catatumbo region is one of the most troubled region in Colombia with little presence of state institutions. Because of its location along the Venezuelan border, the area is home to several anti-government guerrilla groups that use Venezuela as refuge. Additionally, several drug trafficking organizations are seeking control over drug trafficking routes to the neighboring country.
- El Gobierno seguirá llevando ayuda humanitaria al Catatumbo (President’s Office)