The small farmers of Colombia have been on strike for the past six weeks. This meant that thousands of families and hundreds of communities took to the streets of Colombia, blocking major arteries along national highways and demanding change. The mobilization took place as a result of empty promises from the Santos government who have failed to provide agricultural subsidies, create the appropriate economic and social infrastructure, and facilitate a land reform process where Colombian farmers will be favoured over multinational investors. Their demands also include and end to the Free Trade Agreements with Canada, the United States and the EU which have made it impossible for Colombian farmers to compete in their own national market.
So they shut the country down. Farmers traveled for days and camped out for weeks trying to negotiate with a government who refuses to recognize their human rights. After six weeks of striking, where five people were killed and many more were wounded, the government has agreed to work with various geographical areas individually to tailor resolutions for specific regions.
With a promise of negotiations and a meager remuneration for food and transportation from a tight-fisted government, the farmers and their families have headed home.
But what does it mean to go home? Some stereotypical ideas of going home that often come to mind include a familiar bed, a friendly neighbour, a normal routine, and a mom’s cooking. I’m sure most Colombian farming families are enjoying these comforts of home, but I know many of them are also returning to a reality of violence, poverty, and injustice as well as a month and a half of lost work on the land and a dark shadow of years of stigma, abuse, and empty promises from politicians.
But going home does not mean giving up the fight. Going home does not mean returning to the status quo. CPT stands with the Colombian farmers and asks the Colombian government to work with them on a fair and just solution. Because if the agreements aren’t reasonable, they’ll just take to the streets again. And they’d rather just be at home.