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Report produced by Asociación Latinoamericana de Educación Radiofónica (ALER) on the first day of the agrarian strike in Colombia.
A national agrarian strike began on Monday in Colombia to demand government action in response to the “terrible crisis” in agriculture and cattle production that is affecting the whole rural sector in the country.
The situation in the countryside is especially bad as a result of the neoliberal policies implemented in the 80s and the Free Trade Agreements signed by recent Colombian governments, which have left national production at a disadvantage.
Cesar Jerez, member of the National Association of Peasant Reserves said “we demand land property for the peasants, especially for the peasant areas comprised under Law 160, which have been illegally vetoed by the Ministry of Defense”.
Jerez also mentioned that the government is demanding the actual participation of the traditional mining communities in developing the mining policy. “This sector has suffered severe repression under recent Colombian governments”.
Another demand is to ensure the political rights of peasants, indigenous and African-descendants. “These are social sectors and organizations that are being constantly targeted by the government and which are constantly at risk. There are nearly 7,000 political prisoners in Colombia”, he said.
The national agrarian strike is a response to the government’s historical abandonment of a sector that is still responsible for 70% of the food production that is consumed in the country.
Jeréz said that after the strike began today there have been road blocks and a strong military deployment in some highways such as Panamericana, which links the southwest of the country with Ecuador. Over a million Colombians rely on that highway since the early morning hours.
After the beginning of the strike there were reports of peasants arrests. The protest has had massive popular support.
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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