Colombia seeks end to farmers' strike after 2 deaths

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2016 7:36 PM

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Members of Colombia's government met with indigenous leaders on Friday to try to negotiate an end to a nationwide strike by farmers now in its fifth day.

The meeting in the southwestern province of Cauca came a day after two protesters were killed and dozens more injured in clashes with police. The strike began Monday and now includes farmers in 20 of Colombia's 32 provinces. Protesters are demanding the government honor rural spending commitments dating from a much longer and deadlier strike in 2013.

"The agrarian strike is continuing," said Christian Mantilla, a spokesman for the strike's organizers, amid local media reports of more protests on Friday.

Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo, who heads the official delegation, said negotiations were advancing. "There is a good environment to move forward in the talks, to accelerate the fulfillment of the agreements."

Government officials accuse the National Liberation Army, the country's second-largest rebel group, of infiltrating the protests and sparking violence.

But the farmers, many of them hailing from long-neglected indigenous communities, are pledging to remain on the streets and block major highways until their demands are met. Among their demands are the handing over of lands and programs to help farmers substitute legal crops for coca.