Colombia’s agriculture minister on Monday blamed dirty politicians for the massive protests of farmers who had blocked roads and allegedly squatted farmland in the northeast of Colombia.
According to Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo local politicians are behind the more than 5,000 homeless farm workers who protested in order to obtain housing.
Earlier, the governor of Antioquia had said that illegal armed groups were involved in the mass protest.
A council member of one of the municipalities in the banana-growing Uraba region was among the at least 14 men who were arrested on Saturday and Sunday, said Restrepo.
Hundreds of riot police were deployed to remove the protesters of the properties of landowners, authorities said.
The governor of Antioquia, who ordered the eviction, told newspaper El Colombiano Saturday that illegal armed groups are behind the protests, but according to Caracol Radio, the protesters deny this.
Carmen Palencia, director of the NGO Victims Association for the Restitution of assets and land in Uraba, told Associated Press that the squatters demand the return of land stolen from them by paramilitary forces over the years. Palencia denied that the farmers are occupying farmland, but are on public territory. “This is a social problem that has to do with housing shortage. The people have no homes,” she said.
According to the NGO, some 50,000 hectares of land in the banana growing region are still in the hands of those who illegally acquired the land through forced displacement by paramilitary groups in the 1990s and 2000s.
According to W Radio, the farmers squatted the lands to demand the restitution of lands stolen from them by paramilitaries in the 1990s and 2000s.