Hundreds of farmers held a peaceful demonstration outside the ombudsman’s office in Bogota to protest the government’s inaction on enforcing rural workers’ rights legislation passed in 2014.
Some 280 to 300 members of the Campesino Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), a farmers’ rights organisation from the Norte de Santander province, blocked the entrance of governmental Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora Gomez’ office, demanding justice for disenfranchised workers across the nation.
“We demand that you 1. meet the commitments made when we agreed to lift the strike that we held for 53 days in 2013; 2. to reactivate the Catutumbo negotiation table in Bogota, 3. comply with Law 160 and constitute the ZRC at the site of the Hacarí-San Calixto-Teorama,” said the ASCAMCAT in a statement on their website directed at the president.
The protests come in response to a major national agrarian strike from August 2013 over free trade policies leading to unfavorable international prices, debt, and high fertilizer and transport costs. According to farmers, this left the rural population unemployed and hungry. The strike lasted several weeks, consisting of not only farmers, but also truck drivers, health workers, miners, and students throughout the country.
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The ASCAMCAT demonstrators declared that they will not stand down until Santos agrees to see them. They have been sleeping in Renaissance park .
“If they won’t agree to meet us, we’re going to have a second phase of escalated action. A third point, if we’re not heard, we’ll initiate another strike,” said ASCAMAT spokesperson Olga Quintero.