Thousands of Colombian farmers took to the streets on Monday to demand a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss economic aid and better access to land. Miners and truck drivers are expected to join the nationwide protests today.
While the National Bureau of Agricultural Advocacy (Mesa Nacional de Interlocución Agraria), which organized the strike, estimated between 150,000 and 200,000 protestors, police reported about 15,000 people at four separate protests on Monday. The protestors’ demands range from access to potable water to lower taxes on agricultural products. The indefinite strike, backed by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC), is affecting the production of potatoes, rice, cotton, milk, and coffee.
Fernando Carrillo, minister of the Department of the Interior, called for peaceful protests and for the agricultural workers to “avoid the infiltration of violent people.” FARC involvement, even in a supporting role, has raised the fear of continued guerilla violence.
The National Bureau of Agricultural Advocacy intends to continue to strike until a list of demands it presented to the government earlier this month is addressed. Although President Santos emphasized that his government has already given $326 million in aid to agricultural workers, Carrillo announced that beginning today he will also meet with Indigenous groups and some farmers to “demonstrate that while some are protesting, [the government] has completely opened the lines of communication.”