More than 100,000 of Colombian farm workers ban together in protest
August 20, 2013
Thousands of Colombian farm workers have staged protest marches in rural areas, demanding national dialogue on land access and government subsidies.
Eberto Diaz, one of the organizers reported that more than 150,000 workers joined rallies nationwide on Monday. According only to understated police estimates, some 20 rallies and four major demonstrations were held and 11 roadblocks had been set up by the protesters. Authorities deployed 56 tow trucks to dismantle the roadblocks and there were also 13 aircraft which monitored the protests.
In addition, police Chief Rodolfo Palomino reported 22 arrests and more reliable sources said eight people were injured in clashes. Organizers demand President Juan Manuel Santos to set up a national dialogue to discuss land and other farm related issues, including subsidies to coffee farmers. Santos promised higher subsidies in March, however, farmers said that it is not enough, as coffee growers have seen a 40 percent drop in international prices over the past year.
The protest was supported by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who called the rallies a valid response to “neoliberal economic policies.”
Meanwhile, Santos had urged the workers for the past few weeks to call off the strike. On August 15, Santos voiced his frustration over the workers’ refusal to cancel, calling them for “useful idiots” who were being manipulated by powerful political interests against him.
Another day of protest is scheduled for August 20 with other sectors joining the rallies. ”Truckers and miners are also going to join. Certainly tomorrow more people will be joining,” said Diaz.
Miners are demanding that the government cancels new rules requiring all mines to be licensed, citing that the regulation clears the way for foreign mining companies.
Colombia is struggling with a financial slowdown after three years of strong growth. Analysts blame the slowdown on neoliberal globalization and capitalist privatization.