Friday, August 23, 2013

Can Music Soothe the Savage State?

Screaming at the state today: protesters in front of the Miniatry of Agriculture in Bogotá.
Demonstrators screamed, sang and strummed today in front of the agricultural ministry in to support farmers who are blocking highways across Colombia. Perhaps they hoped that under the tunes' influence the line of riot police would soften and drift away, but it didn't happen.

The campesino farmers, particularly milk and potato producers, are demanding price supports and an end to agricultural imports. Public
What do the riot police think of all this? 
university students are protesting for bigger budgets. Truckers want cheaper diesel fuel. And in El Catatumbo protests continue against the government's erradication of coca leaf plantations.

The demonstrations have in common rejection of the government's neoliberal economic policies, in particular free trade agreements which farmers blame for flooding the country with cheap, often subsidized agricultural goods, including staples such as milk and potatoes.

In the background are the peace negotiations in Havana between the government and the FARC
guerrillas. Some government officials see the hand of the guerrillas behind the protests as a way to pressure the government. In fact, in El Cauca, a guerrilla bastion, posters appeared allegedly from the FARC ordering truckers and other transport vehicles off of the roads during the farmers' strike. Meanwhile, the guerrillas announced a 'pause' in the negotiations to consider the government's proposal to hold a national referendum next year on any peace treaty. Still, the negotiations seem to be progressing well, with both sides showing hope for the talks to succeed. But negotiators will have to keep the pressure on - it's hard to see the negotiations succeeding unless they're wrapped up before next year's presidential elections.

On the other hand, the government and protesting farmers remain far apart, with the government demanding the lifting of the dozens of highway blockades in 15 departments as a prerequisite for talks, and the campesinos demanding an end to agricultural imports.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: