Farmer protests in the northeast of Colombia have been just and the government responded too late to the protesters’ griefs, the High Commissioner for Public Dialogue, Luis Eduardo Garzon, said on Tuesday
The social unrest that has been ongoing in the Catatumbo region for two weeks has cost the lives of four demonstrators and has injured around 30. Until Monday, the government refused to talk with the demonstrators. However, a delegation with the high commissioner flew to Catatumbo to meet with the farmers’ leaders on Tuesday.
After talking with protest spokesmen, Garzon told radio station W, that the “dramatic social situation” was something “the government already knew about.”
“Behind this is a dramatic social situation that must be solved and the government must seek its solution,” Garzon said.
The top official said that the protesters call was valid, and that he had made the same requests as a trade unionist. “Subsidies, roads, among others,” he said.
According to Garzon, peasants would not rise if there existed decentralization in responding to regional social issues. He stated that there was a need for “stronger partners in the regions” as the national government would not have had to physically attend regional problems.
Garzon stated that it was the government’s responsibility not to let this kind of protests grow, as the social problems in Catatumbo “had already been warned about” weeks before the situation escalated.
According to the government official, the accusation made by Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo that the protests were infiltrated by guerrilla group FARC, were made too quickly and too soon.
“It is not for me to say whether the protest is infiltrated or not by the guerrilla. What I know is that I sat down to talk with farmers, not guerrillas,” he said.
The locals in the region are demanding more autonomy and want the national government to stop eradicating coca crops until growers are able to grow alternative, legal crops.
The government and farmers will continue talks on Thursday.