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

10 Migrants Drown, While 4,100 Rescued off Libyan Coast

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudi-led Airstrikes Use Banned Cluster Bombs

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

More Than 7,200 Dead, Thousands Missing in Nepal Quake

Hopes of finding survivors fade but search continues as US military aircraft, heavy equipment and air traffic controllers arrive in Nepal to help manage growing piles of relief supplies clogging Kathmandu airport More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Ministry: Gunmen Open Fire on Mexican Army Helicopter, 3 Killed

Violence also flared up on Friday in Jalisco's capital, Guadalajara, second-largest city in Mexico, with vehicles set ablaze in and around the metropolitan area
More

Suspected Member of Guatemalan Family Drug Cartel Extradited to US

Elio Elixander Lorenzana Cordon, 43, arrived in the United States on Thursday and was arraigned on Friday
More

Photogallery Rallies Mark May Day Around the World

Workers are calling for higher pay, better working conditions during protest marches
More

Colombia's Former Spy Chief Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Maria del Pilar Hurtado sentenced for spying on opposition lawmakers, judges, journalists in one of biggest scandals to mar government of ex-President Uribe
More

Argentine Families Expect Pope to Open Dictatorship Files

Files contain complaints to papal nuncio in Argentina and episcopate by families of those disappeared during 1976-83 military crackdown
More

Photogallery Chile's Calbuco Erupts Again With New Cloud of Ash

Volcano erupts for third time in eight days, winds pushing ash clouds southeast towards Argentina
More