“The dialogue with the government will continue, but with the mobilizations,” stated Marylén Serna, spokesperson of Congreso de los Pueblos who participated in the meeting in the Nariño Palace with the President of the Republic. The announced strike will not only be realized from the campesino sector: it will involve diverse social sectors and it already has broad political support.
This past friday, the national government convened a meeting with popular, agrarian, and ethnic leaders in the Nariño Palace. At this meeting, the President of the Republic Juan Manuel Santos lead the official delegation which included the Minister of Work, Agriculture, and Interior, the vice-ministers of all of the cabinets, the director of the department for social prosperity, and the President of the Congress of the Republic. Also present at the meeting were personalities such as: the ex-president of the republic Ernesto Samper, the representative to the chamber and senator elect Iván Cepeda, the monsignor Sánchez Aponte for the Episcopal Conference, and Todd Howland, representative of the High Commission of United Nations in Colombia. With such official names and institutionality, there is anticipation that this time President Santos will take greater note of the social discontent and refrain from referring to the protests with the same contempt as he did the last time, when in the middle of the paralyzation of the country he declared: “this strike does not exist.”
The popular representation
14 delegates attended from the popular organizations, representing the processes that created the Popular, Ethnic, Agrarian Summit a few weeks back: la Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) -ONIC, el Coordinador Nacional Agrario (National Agrarian Coordinator) -CNA, el Congreso de los Pueblos, la Mesa de Interlocución y Acuerdos (The Roundtable of Dialogue and Agreements) -MIA, Marcha Patriótica, el Proceso de Comunidades Negras (The Process of Afro Communities) -PCN, la Mesa de Unidad Agraria (The Roundtable of Agrarian Unity) -MUA, la Asocación Nacional de Zonas de Reserva Campesina (The National Association of Reserved Campesina Zones) -ANZORC, la Coalición de Organizaciones y Movimientos Sociales de Colombia (The Coalition of Social Movements and Organizations in Colombia) -COMOSOC, and la Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (National United Agriculture and Livestock Syndicalist Federation) -FENSUAGRO. Although delegates from Las Dignidades were not present, they have confirmed that they will be part of the Strike and the mobilizations.
“The objective with which we went to this meeting was met, t was not a negotiation but a presentation space of three basic points: a united statement, a single roundtable, and the National Agrarian Strike as an instrument of pressure,” explained Robert Daza, president of Coordinador Nacional Agrario, to Colombia Informa. The Campesino leader from Nariño added, “ It will start a dialogue and an exploratory negotiation for mid-week of Easter hopefully with signs of goodwill.” Daza, like the spokespersons from other sectors, demonstrates a discourse open to dialogue but also firm in the decision of the measures that will be taken. The uncompleted agreements, which terminated the efforts last year, are a bad antecedent for those looking for better results. To reach these better results this time, it is necessary to appear more united and firm. “Further along in these meetings we are going to reaffirm the dates of the National Agrarian Strike, for some it will from May 1, and by the 5th of May, we will all be in the highways,” concluded Daza.
Juvenal Arrieta, spokesperson of the indigenous organization ONIC, spoke before the President of the Republic and justified the new measures of protest. He described the deterioration of the rural crisis and attributed it to the problems with the seeds, the mining and energy panorama, the free trade agreements that harm the small producers, uncompleted agreements from the distinct regional and national negotiation tables, and the impunity of the human rights violations of the participants in the protests the year before, that left numerous dead, injured, and detained. José Santos Caicedo, spokesperson of the afro communities, explained the eight major points of the statement approved in the Summit. “The current policies puts at risk the survival of the popular rural sectors,” he said before the official delegation. For Marcha Patriótica their spokesperson Andrés Gil spoke and demanded a “high-level committee” to carry forward the negotiations and demanded the guarantee of the exercise of social protest. Marylén Serna completed the speeches in the name of Congreso de los Pueblos.
Then, it was time for President Santos to speak. He promised to “respect the social protest” and accepted that he cannot prevent the strike, he recognized “it is a right that all Colombians have.” After this he invited the organizations to participate in the Agrarian Pact of the government which seeks to compete with the Summit for number of campesino processes represented. Finally, he accepted the installation of a national roundtable and delegated this task to the minister of the Interior, also present in the meeting.
The statement of the strike
The Agrarian Summit, realized in mid-March, congregated more than 5,000 delegates who were not only from campesina organizations. The product of the summit was a single statement, that articulated the following themes: lands, collective territories and territorial systems; the campesino economy against the model of spoliation; mining, energy and rurality; cultivation of coca, marijuana, and opium poppy; political rights, guarantees, victims, and justice; social rights; relationship between the countryside and the city; peace, social justice, and a political solution. Behind this ambitious agenda, they are converging the most solid and organized expressions of the popular movement. The strike will be the expression of this political demand and this potentiality.