The farmers from the Catatumbo region were supposed to meet with top government officials in the presidential palace on Tuesday to seek an end to three-week long protests that have escalated and led to the death of four of the protesters.
The protesters demand increased regional autonomy and a suspension of the eradication of coca crops until the government offers alternative crops to sustain themselves. Following weeks of protests and severe clashes with police, Santos over the weekend invited the protesters to the presidential palace, which was initially accepted, but under conditions.
However, the vice-president of the farmers’ association told Colombia Reports they have canceled the meeting because the president failed to confirm his presence at the meeting, the government failed to appoint a mediator and the protesters have no confidence in talks with ministers.
“After a week of intents to talk with the national government, there have been no advances neither in political terms nor methodological terms,” said AsCamCat vice-president Juan Carlos Quintero.
The peasant leader said the farmers continued to be willing to end the protests through negotiations with the government, but “if the president isn’t there, the farmers have no interest to continue” what Quintero considered a “media show.”
In order to show goodwill, the AsCamCat vice-president said they will continue to continue their suspension of roadblocks that has isolated the town of Ocaña from the rest of the country.
In a response, Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo said to be “surprised” about the farmers’ decision to suspend talks. The minister told Colombian radio station Blu the farmers “already had agreed to come.”
The minister did not comment on the farmers’ demand to meet in Catatumbo instead of Bogota.
- Interview with AsCamCat vice-president Luis Carlos Quintero