Conflicts & War

Colombian peasants block major highway

Piendamo, Colombia, Aug 1 (EFE).- Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peasants shut down the Panamericana highway Tuesday in this town in the southwest province of Cauca to dramatize their demands for land, homes, and infrastructure.

Around 5,000 people used tractor-trailers, trees, and mounds of sand to block Colombia’s main north-south artery in Piendamo, according to the organizers, the Grandsons of Quintin Lame Landless Movement, named for a rebel who tried to establish an indigenous republic in the early 20th century.

“We are demanding the purchase of lands, homes, and aqueducts,” Emilia Aposta, governor of the Huila indigenous reserve in Paez, Cauca, told reporters.

The political coordinator of the Landless Movement, Luz Edith Chilo, told EFE that the aim of the mobilization is to move the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro – “who is a friend” – to give substance to the “rights of the indigenous, Afro, and peasant communities.”

The movement calls for “the strengthening of the peace process and that those accords are fulfilled, especially the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform,” she said, referring to the November 2016 agreements that ended decades of war between the Colombian government and leftist FARC guerrillas.

Lilia Solano, the deputy minister for social dialogue, traveled to Cauca early Tuesday and the ministers of interior, Luis Fernando Velasco; housing, Catalina Velasco; and agriculture, Jhenifer Mojica, are expected to arrive later to begin talks with protest leaders.

The interior minister said that the government had already secured “at least an agreement in principle” for the roadblock to be lifted once discussions start.

Under Colombia’s previous right-wing government, peasants in Cauca mounted an extended blockade of the Panamericana highway during nationwide protests in 2021.

EFE egj-ime/dr

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