|A campesino farmer in Huila Department. |
reCan he plant his own seeds? (Photo: Diario de Huila)
The protesters who have blockaded many of Colombia's highways and carried out sometimes violente marches in Bogotá and other cities blame free trade agreements for driving down crop prices and pushing peasant farmers to ruin.
The peasants' main complaint is about the importation of cheap, subsidized foods, especially potatoes
|'We demand access to property rights.'|
|A protester scrawled 'No on 9.70' on this storefront in downtown Bogotá.|
|Before today's protest march, police line up on|
Plaza Bolivar for instructions. The day would be
long and violent for them.
ICA's director called the documentary mistaken and said, variously, that the seeds hadn't passed government quality controls and that the seeds weren't fit for human consumption because they'd been stored in pesticide sacks.
|Unionists in today's protest march.|
A move to require that farmers use only seeds certified by the government is rooted in the Colombian-
US Free Trade Agreement, according to Semana magazine. However, that requirement was annulled by a Colombian Supreme Court decision last year.
The resolution does permit small farmers to plant their own seeds, called criollas, according to Semana - but only on less than five hectares and only for personal consumption.
In El Tiempo, opinion columnist Jorge Orlando Melo called Res. 970 "absurd" and "ridiculous." Res. 970 fines farmers 10,000 times the monthly minimum wage for planting 'illegal' food crops - much more than the fines for planting coca and marijuana (which should be legal, in any case), writes Melo.
Apparently embarassed by the controversy, ICA officials seem to have reinterpreted their own resolution and now claim that it doesn't actually prohibit that farmers plant seeds from their own harvests, and have introduced modifications to that end.
Whatever the resolution actually says - and it seems to be confusingly written - at least one of its critics' accusations appears to be off the mark. The certified seed requirement isn't much benefit for multinational corporations like Monsanto, since almost all of the seed sold in Colombia, including all the rice seed, is supplied by Colombian companies.
|After the protests, riot police shields |
painted by protesters' bombs.
Today's massive protests turned violent, perhaps mainly because of violent, encapuchados, who attacked police. At least one policeman was seriously injured by a rock blow to his head.
|Businesses closed during today's protests, which turned violent.|
|A cyclist rides on Ave. Septima alongside riot police.|
|After the protests, walls covered with scrawled graffiti.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours