As part of a broader government effort to promote its compliance with Colombia’s striking agricultural sector, Minister of the Interior Aurelio Iragorri Valencia announced that Tuesday will mark the start of a direct buying program directed at farmers.
The program, according to the Minister, will buy 1,000 tons of potato a day from farmers from the states of Boyaca, Cudinamarca and Narino, at prices slightly higher than regular market value.
“Instead of turning over subsidies,” he said, “we are going to buy directly from farmers […] at a price slightly higher than in Corabastos [, Bogota’s largest vegetable market].”
In principle, the initiative is designed to guarantee a certain level of sales and “raise the prices” of potatoes.
Talking to reporters late last week, the minister used the program as evidence of the government’s “willingness” to fulfill the “159 agreements” it has made with national strike leaders.
The protesters themselves, however, claim that the government has yet to successfully negotiate a single topic of the agricultural sector’s six-point National Declaration, supposedly the basis of ongoing talks between the administration of Juan Manuel Santos and the national agricultural negotiating team (MIA).
The government has gone to lengths to publicize its so-called “National Pact”, which it has presented as a solution to what President Santos called the “crisis” facing the Colombian countryside. But protesters widely rejected the pact as “unilateral” and “superficial” before it was even announced, and say that national negotiations have yet to show any progress.
“Whatever good the Pact will do,” said MIA negotiator Dule Anzueta in an interview with Colombia Reports, “and, let’s be clear, it isn’t going to help in the long term — is not important, because we haven’t been included in the process. What the government doesn’t understand is that we are tired of other people enacting empty solutions to our problems.”
- Ministry of Interior press release
- Interview with Dule Anzueta