Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Colombian Cabinet Members Resign Amid Farmer Protests



Sixteen members of Colombia’s Cabinet resigned on Monday ahead of a likely Cabinet reshuffle by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the wake of a growing crisis in Colombia’s farming sector.

As a nationwide farmers’ strike stretches into its third week, Santos is reportedly working on an accord with farmers to deal with the protests, which turned violent last week in the capital city of Bogotá. Last Thursday, protests in Bogotá left at least two people dead and hundreds injured. Santos responded by sending 50,000 soldiers into the streets to patrol the city.

Colombian farmers say that the country’s free trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S. and Europe are making it impossible for domestic agriculture to compete with cheaper imports. The farmers, who installed roadblocks across the country two weeks ago in protest, agreed to lift some of the blockades last Friday after Santos said he was dissatisfied with his officials’ handling of negotiations with the protesters. The roadblocks had cut off some towns from shipments of fuel and food.

Santos emphasized his committment to improving rural development in Colombia and in working with all sectors of the Colombian economy. “We will work to construct a grand national pact for agriculture and rural development and we will include all interested parties in that process,” he said on Friday.

The resigning Cabinet members offered full support to Santos in a statement on Monday. This will be the second time that Santos has shuffled his Cabinet since taking office in 2010. Since then, his approval rating has fallen from a high of 74 percent to below 50 percent in July. He has until November to decide whether he will run for a second term as president in the May 2014 elections.

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