The association of Colombian peasants on Tuesday released a statement bemoaning the efforts of the government in responding to demonstrations in the northeast of the country that have been ongoing for more than 50 days.
The peasants, who reside in the Catatumbo region, have been protesting for 51 days requesting the creation of a rural peasant reserve zone, along with the suspension of the manual eradication of coca, a crop which provides their main source of income.
“The government have prolonged this protest by 50 days, all because they do not want a democratic, peaceful dialogue” explained the peasants.
According to the union, throughout this week the police have led attacks against farmers similar to that of Ocaña, where four farmers died in June.
“The national police are armed with rifles, which they aim against the peasant demonstrators and then shoot into the air.”
“While this was happening two aircraft flew at very low altitude, causing great panic, terror and anxiety among the marchers,” added the peasants.
According to the peasants, unmanned drones have also been deployed in the region.
“During the afternoon there were flyover drones, aircraft used for military intelligence and operations, as it is used to take photographs, recordings and to locate military objectives.”
“They also threw appliances knows as balloons, to continue with military intelligence and the taking of pictures” added the statement.
The situation in Catatumbo escalated 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.
- Gobierno de Colombia: ¿El campesinado del Catatumbo es un objetivo de ataque militar? (Association of Colombian peasants)