News / Americas

Colombia Farmer Protests a Headache for Santos' Re-election Bid

Student demonstrators are seen during a protest supporting a nationwide agriculture strike in Bogota, Colombia, April 28, 2014.
Student demonstrators are seen during a protest supporting a nationwide agriculture strike in Bogota, Colombia, April 28, 2014.
Reuters
Farmers across Colombia began protests on Monday demanding the government enact reforms it promised last year, organizers said, demonstrations that could unsettle President Juan Manuel Santos as he runs for re-election in four weeks.

Colombian producers of coffee, potatoes, rice, tomatoes and other crops say the government has failed to alleviate indebtedness and regulate prices for inputs like fertilizer, among other measures they say were promised in August to end protests that turned violent.

The government argues it has been working on the reforms though some can be implemented only over the long term.

"It's a national day of protests by farmers across Colombia," said Victor Correa, spokesman for the Dignidad Cafetero coffee growers' protest movement. "We are complaining about the government not fulfilling the agreements of August last year."

He said peaceful protests were taking place in 15 of Colombia's 32 provinces though some of the groups were blocking roads. Participation this time was likely to be smaller because a near 70 percent increase in coffee prices since August has soothed the sector's anger, he said.

Nonetheless, it comes at a critical moment for Santos who is seeking a second four-year term in elections on May 25 as the demonstrations turn the spotlight on a sector that some believe has been neglected by the government.

Center-right Santos has said the protests are deliberately designed to damage his
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a campaign rally in Bogota, April 28, 2014.Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a campaign rally in Bogota, April 28, 2014.
x
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a campaign rally in Bogota, April 28, 2014.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a campaign rally in Bogota, April 28, 2014.
election campaign. If they escalate they could boost support for right-wing Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and the Green Alliance's Enrique Penalosa, his two main rivals.

Santos' popularity plunged to a record low of 21 percent immediately following last year's protests from above 50 percent months earlier. A poll this weekend by Ipsos Napoleon Franco showed Santos would likely win the election but need a second round.

Interior Minister Aurelio Irragori said the protests were peaceful and the only attempt to block a road was in a large coffee-growing province.

"In the rest of the country there have been some demonstrations by different sectors, all peaceful and without roadblocks," he said.

Protest organizers deny government accusations that the FARC rebels are behind the movement, which they say has clear and legitimate aims. Nonetheless, the government said it has proof the rebels have been trying to incite farmers to take part.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have been engaged in peace talks with the government over the last 17 months in a bid to end a conflict that has stretched 50 years.

FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda denied the group was involved but said it backed the protests in principle.

Correa of the coffee farmers' protest movement said producers were due to meet with Agriculture Minister Ruben Dario Lizarralde later on Monday. The ministry has released press statements in recent days highlighting the attention the government has been giving to the sector.

Last year's protests turned violent as the armed forces used tear gas to end road blockades that cut off food supplies to some towns. The protests culminated with demonstrations in a main square in the capital Bogota. Students joined the protests and smashed shop windows.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC to Test Rio's Olympic Water Venues for Viruses

Decision prompted by Associated Press investigation published last week revealing high counts of viruses directly linked to human sewage in Olympic waters
More

Misery Deepens for Those in Puerto Rico Who Can't Leave

Island's entrenched economic crisis is leading people to either cut their personal spending to the basics or flee to the mainland to search for jobs
More

Outlook Mixed After TPP Talks End

No deal was reached at what was intended to be the concluding round last week in Hawaii; Elections are approaching in Canada, US
More

Mexican Journalists Protest After Colleague's Killing

Activists say 34 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992, making it the 10th deadliest country for reporters
More

Canada’ Harper Dissolves Parliament, Calls Early Poll

Prime Minister, his Conservative party are seeking fourth term in office after nearly decade in power; election set for October 19
More

Mexican Journalist Found Dead After Receiving Threats

Ruben Espinosa worked for investigative magazine 'Proceso,' which said his sister identified his body Saturday
More