Colombia: president to meet with protest leaders after week of strikes

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Colombia: president to meet with protest leaders after week of strikes

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After a week of demonstrations and strikes in Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has agreed to sit down at the negotiating table with farmers.

There is anger at the government’s privatisation and free trade policies. Local farmers say they are up against subsidised US and European crops leaving them unable to earn a living.

Tens of thousands of people have blocked roads and staged protests leading to violent clashes with police, who used tear gas and water canons.

Bogota’s main wholesale market for fruit and vegetables remained empty as roadblocks prevented produce getting through.

Protesters also destroyed their produce, pouring milk and throwing apples into the streets.They are calling for government subsidies for agricultural commodities and reduced fuel prices.

It started as a farmer’s strike but has grown to include doctors, teachers, miners and students and has popular support. Many believe the government has backed multinational corporations over ordinary Colombians.

One protester in Remolino, in northern Colombia said: “It is not only protests and complaints, there has to be solutions for the agricultural sector.”

President Santos is in Tunja, the capital of the Boyaca region, which has been at the heart of the protests. He is due to meet with the local authorities and leaders of the protests.

On Sunday, hundreds of residents of Tunja, including children, marched in a night protest, banging pots and pans in support of the farmers.

The current demonstrations in Colombia mark the second wave of a national strike against the president that began earlier this year.