(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
by Yhoban Camilo Hernández Cifuentes
April 27, 2014
Beginning this Monday, April 28, 2014, a new national agrarian work stoppage will take place in Colombia. It has been called by several of the sectors that led the mobilizations in 2013. [i]. Other ethnic and people’s organizations have united with them. The protest originated in the presumed lack by the Government to carry out the agreements reached last year.
The decision to go out again was announced last month (March) during the development of the Agrarian, Ethnic, Peasant and People’s Summit. It is expected that the stoppage will develop in 22 departments of the country and will involve the participation of 100,000 peasants.
In the face of the petitions of 2013, [ii], the new document by the people in agriculture seems to be strengthened with eight central lines: 1.Land, collective territory and territorial organization. 2.Our own economy against the model of looting 3.Mining, energy and rural culture 4.Coca, marijuana and poppy growing 5.Political rights, guarantees, victims and justice 6.Social rights 7.Countryside-City relationships 8. Peace, justice and a political solution.
For their part, the Movimiento Dignidad Agropecuaria (Agricultural Dignity Movement), which groups together small and middle-sized producers from different regions of the country, and which will also mobilize again, is presenting an agenda with five central themes: “renegotiating the free trade agreements (FTA) and the struggle against contraband; reduction in the cost of raw materials; control of mining and protection of the environment; forgiving of bank debts and support for alternative crops in potato-producing zones, such as Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Nariño.” [iii]
On the other hand, the small and middle-sized miners of the country, who are in the Confederación Nacional de Mineros de Colombia—Conalminercol (National Miners’ Confederation of Colombia), announced their participation in this mobilization of the agrarian sector, just as happened during 2013, when the mining work stoppage joined the agrarian protest.
The informal producers are also joining the protest, arguing that the government has not carried out the agreements that were accomplished during the 2013 stoppage, especially in the steps related to Decree 2235, which orders the public security forces to burn the machinery used in illegal mining, which also affects informal mining. To date, in this year according to Conalminercol, 35 backhoes and 11 dredges belonging to informal miners have been burned.
The petition document of the small and middle-sized producers contains the same thematic lines of last year: 1.A bill to create a statute on small and middle-scale mining in Colombia 2.Implementation of a protocol to guarantee due process in the operations of the public security forces against the mines 3.Special environmental guidelines for the process of formalizing small and medium mining 4.Carrying out of item 31 of the Mining Code of 2001 about the right of ancestral mining communities to have the Government assign them special mining areas.
Meanwhile, the National Government has tried to avoid the protest through previous dialogue with the peasants. However, they have not been able to arrive at an agreement with the agrarian leaders who are sticking to their decision to protest.
Similarly, last Tuesday, April 22, the Ministries of Agriculture, of the Interior and of the Treasury assured that in fact the Government is carrying out the agreements arrived at with the peasants in 2013, and referred to some of the supports established for the rural sector.
Among the measures by the Government are the prohibition of seizures and enforced collections to get payment of the debts of agrarian producers; an increase in the budget for agriculture of nearly 190%, which went from 1.8 trillion [Colombian pesos—a little over 1 billion USD—SC] in 2012 to 5.2 trillion in 2014; and the buying of overdue accounts of some 80 thousand peasants by the Fondo para el Financiamiento del Sector Agropecuario (Finagro) [Fund for the Financing of the Agricultural Sector] in cases of people being affected by extreme climatic situations, problems of plant health, drops in the prices of agricultural products and difficulties with public order.
Juan Manuel Santos, president and candidate, affirmed during a visit to the department of Cauca that: “Behind the stoppage there are eminently political ends because they know that with this they want to damage me and my presidential campaign.”
However, the cards have already been played. The agrarian protest is more than confirmed, and the peasants are not satisfied with the announcement of new measures and the implementation of subsidies. At bottom, they’re asking for a transformation of the model of agrarian and rural development, as well as the broadening of their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
[i] The main protests around the rural sector that occurred during 2013 in Colombia began with the national coffee growers’ mobilization on February 25. They were followed by the work stoppage by the peasants of Catatumbo, continued with the National Miners’ Stoppage on July 17, Norte de Santander on July 11, and culminated with the National Agrarian Stoppage on August 19.
[ii] 1.Measures and actions in the face of the crisis in agricultural production 2. Access to land ownership 3.Recognition of peasant territorial rights 4.Effective participation of the communities and the small and traditional miners in the formulation and development of mining policy 5.Adoption of measures that guarantee the political rights of the rural population 6.Investment in the rural and urban population in education, health, housing, public services and roads.
[iii] Editoral team of El Tiempo, 2014, April 22, “The Government’s cards to try to put the brakes on the new agriarian stoppage””, El Tiempo, national edition (on the Internet), Politics section, available in their web site: http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/medidas-del-gobierno-para-evitar-nuevo-paro-agrario_13868259-4
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