Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday said that possible dialogue with peasants from the Catatumbo region must be “without any restrictions.”
Speaking at the sixth summit of mayors in Villavicencio, the head of state emphasized the need for transparency at the talks, which he said could begin on Tuesday.
“This must be a dialogue without restrictions of any kind, all of the topics that they want to discuss should be discussed.”
Demonstrations have been ongoing in the northeastern Catatumbo region, as farmers protest against the eradication of coca crops and seek the creation of a rural peasant reserve zone to protect the area from large-scale mining.
While initial protests were peaceful, the situation soon escalated as farmers began blocking roads. In the clashes with police that followed, four farmers were killed and many more injured.
While peasants insisted that the government were not interested in talks, Santos maintained that dialogue was dependent on the unblocking of roads.
A spokesman for the peasants on Wednesday confirmed that demonstrators would unblock a road connecting one of the regions main towns with the departments capital, prompting talks with the government.
The head of state now insists that Catatumbo could be a model for the rest of the country.
“We have to see if we can make Catatumbo a plan, a pilot project for peace.”
“Catatumbo has been plagued by violence. There is a presence of groups operating outside of the law and also a presence of drug trafficking. For this reason Catatumbo can be a good pilot plan, but I repeat without restrictions of any kind, without any conditions” added Santos.
Catatumbo, a region on the border with Venezuela, has long been suffering a lack of state presence. Instead, rebel groups and drug trafficking organizations exercise strong control over the region.
- Comisión gubernamental que dialogará en el Catatumbo será integrada este lunes (President’s office)