The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Colombia weighed in on nationwide agrarian protests that kicked off Monday, urging the government to avoid “stigmatization” of the strikes.
The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator, Fabrizio Hochschild, said that if the government stigmatized the protests, this could incite violence and would not contribute to reaching a solution to the problems leading up to the second rural strike within a year.
“It is very important that these strikes are conducted without violence, and to avoid this it is important to stop stigmatizing the strike [… ,to] stop treating the protests as if it were an extension of the guerrilla, that does not help anything,” Hochschild stated referring to the recent allegations by the defense minister who said that illegal armed groups were infiltrating the strikes, claims similar made with earlier government-critical protests.
According to Hochschild, allegations of this kind do not allow the dialogue between the government and the Agrarian Dignity (Dignidad Agraria) protesters to progress and may in fact lead to situations of violence.
“The best from both the government and those responsible for maintaining law and order is to maintain a conciliatory rhetoric, aimed to maintaining peaceful conditions,” he said.
Ombudsman cautions authorities and Protestors
Colombia’s Ombudsman, the country’s highest human rights official, also released a statement on Monday cautioning both the protestors and security forces to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.
In a statement the Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora said that as well as a peaceful conduct by protesters, the government authorities must allow the demonstrators the right to carry out their protests.
“Leaders of the agricultural strike are urged to conduct a peaceful protest […] avoiding confrontations with the security forces and with other citizens,” the statement read.
In August of 2013, mass nationwide agrarian protests paralyzed the country. The rural uproar left five people dead, and hundreds hospitalized or arrested following clashes with police.
The current protests are held — less than one month before presidential election — because the protesting farmers, miners and truckers claim the government has not kept promises made after last year’s protests.
- Equipo Directivo (United Nations)
- ONU advierte que estigmatizar paro puede generar hechos de violencia (Caracol Radio)
- Estigmatizacion del Paro Agrario podría propiciar hechos de violencia: ONU (RCN Radio)
- Defensoria respalda derecho a la protesta, pero pide garantías para quienes no participan del Paro Agrario (Ombudsman Press Release)