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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Presidential Candidates Weigh In on US Cuba Policy

update Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been strong supporter of administration's decision to seek normalized relations with Cuba
More

Multimedia US, Cuba to Reopen Embassies

Restoration of official ties is the latest step in the process since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced in December the two countries were renewing diplomatic relations
More

US, Cuba Reach Deal to Open Embassies in Washington, Havana

Formal unveiling will fulfill pledge former Cold War rivals made little more than 6 months ago when President Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro announced historic diplomatic opening
More

Mexico Won't Send Contestant to Miss Universe

Decision follows remarks by Donald Trump, an owner of the pageant, who referred to Mexican immigrants to US as criminals and rapists
More

WHO Declares Cuba First Country to End Mother-to-child HIV Transmission

In 2013, only two children in Cuba were born with HIV and five with syphilis, according to World Health Organization statement
More

US-Brazil Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy
More