Notes on the Agrarian Strike and the Issuance of Decree 870 of 2014
/ Jueves 15 de mayo de 2014
Investigador de ILSA. Columnista Online Ámbito Jurídico y Agencia Prensa Rural @Freddy_Ordonez
The agrarian strike, after two weeks of mobilization and protest, achieved one of the most significant results for the small farmers in Colombia in recent times: the proclamation of the Decree 870 on May 8, 2014 which creates the Exclusive National Roundtable for Dialogue and Participation (MUN, initials in Spanish) to deal with the issues of the National Agrarian, Farmers’, Ethnic and Popular Summit (hereafter: ’Agrarian Summit’), which took place from March 15 to 17 of this year, whose final declaration gather together in a single document all of the debate issues put forward by an important coalition of organizations of farmers, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians to the national Government and its policy of rural development, after an analysis that was made of by these same organizations of the national agrarian work stoppage of which they were protagonists and which stirred the country between the months of August and September of last year and of the governmental convocation for the agrarian pact.
Before laying out the contents of the Decree and some of the possible projects that flow from it for the farmers, it is important to consider two elements: (1) although the start date of the current protests was this past April 28, this does not mean that a new scenario of militancy is happening different from the one that took place in the country just this past year. In fact, this new stoppage should be seen as the continuation of the national agrarian and popular work stoppages that in 2013 took place in 30 of the principal cities of the country, whose most significant achievements were the unleashing of protest in the rural areas, which got strong urban expressions of solidarity and rejection of the injustices suffered by the country’s peasantry, as well as causing multiple sectors of the nation’s rural population to converge in the Agrarian Summit: Farmer, Ethnic and Popular Groups, which was held this year from March 15 to 17 in the city of Bogota. To that end, the stoppage which lasted two weeks, is the continuation of the farmers work stoppage of 2013, which was suspended for as long as there were meetings for dialogue and negotiation between the Roundtable for Dialogue and Agreement (MIA, initials in Spanish) and the National Government. (2) Although the organizations connected to the Agrarian Summit have indicated that their participation in the farmers’ strike has ceased, the section for the “dignities” (las dignidades) continues to protest, at the same time as a roundtable of conversations is going on with the Ministry of Agriculture in order to reach agreements that may give viability to their demands.
Strike, Summit and Unity
As was pointed out, following the National Agrarian and Popular Work Strike (2013), the Agrarian, Ethnic and Popular Summit was organized, an event in which 30 thousand people participated representing at least 12 national rural and social organizing processes. The meeting’s objective was to put together a scenario for social movement unity in the rural sector, and succeeded in constructing a set of demands, mandate for good living, for structural agrarian reform, sovereignty, democracy and peace with social justice, structured around eight points: (i) land, collective territories and territorial legislation; (ii) appropriate economy in contrast to the model of displacement; (iii) mining, energy and the rural sector; (iv) cultivation of coca, marihuana and poppies; (v) political rights, guarantees , victims and justice; (vi) social rights; (vii)the city-countryside relationship; (viii) peace, social justice and political solutions ; that represent the "political, economic, social, environmental, cultural and territorial needs of historically marginalized and excluded communities, is a call for attention to the national government on the urgency of responding structurally to a rural world that demands their rights" .
At the same time these eight points are developed in a series of more specific initiatives that are oriented, among other things to: (a) the recognition of the right of farmers, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians to participate in the processes of definition of public sector policies and those relating to their territories; (b) the stipulation of constitutional rights differentiated for the peasantry within these the right of territory, and the application to the internal order of the Declaration regarding the rights of farmers and other persons that work in rural zones; ( c ) the implementation of an agrarian reform; (d) the effective implementation of already recognized constitutional rights; (e) the re-orientation of the economic model and its relationship to the countryside, including the mining and energy policy and the policies regarding the cultivation for illicit crops; (f) the transformation of the systems for growing food; (g) the repeal of laws and measures that affect the rural sector; and (h) the inclusion of the class of farmers within the constitutional framework for democracy and society.
From the Strike to the Roundtable
So then, the Decree 870 of 2014, gives life to the Single National Roundtable, as the forum for dialogue among the National Government and 35 delegates. This roundtable will deal with the eight points summarized from the papers of the Summit, a process which will be carried out under the premises of dialogue, participation and mutual agreement and Article 2 of the constitution.
This roundtable gives continuity to the High Level Commission installed as a result of the national agrarian strike of 2013, but it moves forward from the latter in the following aspects: in the first place, its stipulation is by decree, which gives it more weight in relation to the previous agreement; second, it consecrates the coordination and correspondence of the MUN with the regional roundtables already implemented; and thirdly, it contemplates the implementation of the agreements via public entities and authorities, according to their respective legal powers; a fourth point, has to do with the fact that although the demands of the Roundtable of Dialogue and Agreement, MIA, established in August of 2013 and those of the Agrarian Summit are basically identical, the new ones are more thoroughly elaboration in their stipulations and their contents, and denote that the peasantry has a transformative stake in the social reality beyond the countryside, which is constantly analyzed and refined.
Undoubtedly, the second decade of the Twenty-First Century is defining the Colombian countryside: the resurgence of struggles by farmers, the need to evaluate and reformulate the agrarian policy (the Law 160 of 1994 is now twenty years old, without any great advance in the improvement of the conditions of the class of farmers and with an unfulfilled agrarian reform), the pretensions of free trade, the so-called Agrarian Pact, and the dialogues in Havana, are some of the situations that account for this, in this sense the MUN should be seen as the scenario of first order for the promotion and insertion of the vindications and demands of the peasantry.
So, the Exclusive National Roundtable can be of enormous importance for the transformation of the farm sector if the points set forth in it are translated and incorporated into the national legislation and constitution (be that in the present or in a new Charter). The key here will be to harmonize the Havana agreements such that they keep their relationship with the demands of the peasantry and the convergence with the negotiations that may carried out with the dignities. On the other hand, what is at risk is the well-known lack of political will by the Government to implement the demands put forth; as well as, the brakes or barriers to the same that may come from the Agrarian Pact. In the face of these risks, the street will surely once again see the mobilized peasantry, because democracy is made with the farmers or it is not democracy.
DECREE 870 MAY 8 2014. whereby a pace is regulated for the dialogue and particition with the Organizations of the Agrarian, Farmers, Ethnic and Popular Organizations that is denominated as the Single National Roundtable.
 Agrarian, Farmers, Ethnic and Popular Roundtable, set of demands, mandate for good living, for structural agrarian reform, sovereignty, democary and peace with social justice. Available at :http://www.prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article13801 [Dated: May 10, 2014]
 Agrarian, Farmers, Ethnic and Popular Roundtable, Political Declaration. Available at: http://www.prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article13668 [Dated: May 10, 2014]