17 May 2014
COLOMBIA: The National Agrarian Strike strikes again
[Note: This article has been edited for length. You will find the original article, with more pictures of the Norean encampment here.]
|“Excuse us for the inconveniences, we are struggling to guarantee our
food sovereignty. Strike for progress. CISCA [Catatumbo
28 April to 9 May 2014, 3,000 farmers and miners from the Southern Bolivar,
Catatumbo, and Cesar regions mobilized near the small town of Norean (three
hours north of Barrancabermeja) along with thousands across the country as part
of the National Strike, to pressure the national government to negotiate with
their leaders in Bogota. This
gathering was the second such mobilization in less than a year, convened after
the government failed to fulfill the agreements that ended the first one.
|CPTer Sarah Sommers stands on a hill above the encampment next to the CPT tent and flag.|
Colombia accompanied the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation
(FEDEAGROMISBOL) at the camp in Norean. With their plastic
tarp tents, banners lining the highway, and caches of donated food, the people
gathered and declared, “as long as the government shows good faith and agrees
to meet with the national negotiating team, we will stay off the road.
But if they fail to negotiate and refuse to hear our petitions or if the
police commit any type of aggression against us, we will be forced to block the
road.” In this case, the road
referred to the main Colombian north-south highway.
In August 2013, farmers, miners, truckers, coffee
growers, students, teachers, and other sectors of Colombian society launched
what they called the National Strike. Its primary goal was to support
Colombia’s agrarian sector hit hard by the free trade agreements Colombia has
signed. Strikers in several regions of Colombia blocked major highways,
paralyzing the flow of goods and significantly affecting the economy while police attacked and arrested them.
After almost two months, five deaths, and hundreds of hospitalizations
and arrests, the factions reached an agreement.
En route to Norean, fear of police attacks was constant after police confiscated six tons ($30,000 worth) of
food and medicine, as well as beating and stealing money and cellphones from
eight people. During the week,
riot police, along with small tanks, positioned themselves around the
encampment at three locations. Flyovers by a police helicopter happened
three times a day, and rumors of the army a few kilometers away kept everyone
|Riot police pose in front of their tank.|
On Thursday, 8 May, strike leaders called a press conference and
announced that President Santos had signed a presidential decree giving strong
credibility to the negotiating process. The leaders thanked everyone for
their commitment and strength to endure living under plastic tarps to show
President Santos that if he does not take their concerns seriously they are
ready to take action. The signing
of the presidential decree was the minimum condition for the community to end
the mobilization and return to their homes. Members said that if the
government does not continue negotiations they will mobilize again. On
Friday, 9 May, all 3,000 farmers and miners climbed into trucks and joyfully
began their journey home.
|Farmers and miners load into trucks to begin their long journey home.|