Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Farmer protests in Colombia

In February, peasant farmers in Colombia began striking over government refusal to negotiate development projects that would ameliorate growing poverty in the agricultural sector. The government attempted to discredit the protests by claiming they were infiltrated by guerillas (particularly the FARC) & army & riot cops used what even UN observers called “excessive force” to stop farmers from blockading highways. Four protestors were killed & dozens arrested--but the protests were temporarily halted a few times after the government agreed to negotiate. So much for the promises of hoodlums!

On Monday, after government negotiations for economic reforms again proved unproductive, protests & highway blockades resumed in a national strike of truckers demanding cheaper gasoline, coffee growers demanding extension of government subsidies, potato & onion growers demanding lower prices for fertilizer, & farmers opposing free trade agreements with the US & European Union which threaten their entire livelihoods--but which would enormously enrich a handful of Colombian oligarchs.

Government officials say the strike is a ploy to extort more benefits from the government. Well you certainly can’t say the government is stupid. But in fact, most peasant farmers haven’t received a single cent of government subsidies or any type of assistance since the subsidy program was initiated last October & when they agreed to implement a direct payment system after a previous farmer strike in February.

In Bogota, thousands of students, health workers, agriculture & mining workers joined support rallies for the national strike; in Medellin, protesting farmers littered the streets in front of the Coffee Growers Federation with coffee beans. Media reports some protestors are pelting riot cops with rocks & homemade explosives. Meanwhile riot cops are charging protestors with tear gas & “excessive force.”

No explanation is given for why seven riot cops are ganging up on & kicking this unarmed guy at a protest in Ubate (north of Bogota). The media caption says the kneeling cop is attempting to protect the man. Well bully for him.

(Photo by Fernando Vergara/AP)

No comments:

Post a Comment