There was big news in Colombia this week. Farmers are protesting the free trade agreements Colombia made with the U.S. and E.U. This ABC article gives a good overview of the situation:
“Agrarian workers, truckers, miners, and coffee growers in Colombia have staged a national strike for more than a week now to protest government indifference and economic hardships brought about by free trade agreements and lack of regulation. The strikers have called for marches, manned dozens of roadblocks on some of the country’s key highways, and fought riot police in an escalating conflict that is costing the nation more than one billion dollars.” Read the full article here.
As a result of the roadblocks and some protest-related violence, the U.S. embassy sent advisories to its mailing list, which I subscribe to. See below. While the major demonstrations are happening in other places in the country, there have been some organized marches along the main avenue in town here. The marches usually consist of individuals on foot and motorcycle holding signs and rings bells or noise makers, and they usually take place around 9:00 pm. There hasn’t been any protest-related violence in Armenia however, and daily life has been continuing as usual.
Also, this week, Starbucks announced that it will open its first location in Colombia next year – in Bogota. The company said it will only roast Colombian coffee beans in Colombian locations. The reaction to the news has been temperate/positive. The Colombia National Federation of Coffee Producers called this good news. And according to BBC, Colombia’s predominant cafe chain – Juan Valdez – is welcoming forthcoming competition from Starbucks as they expect it to boost overall coffee consumption in the country.
U.S. Embassy Bogota
Security Message for U.S. Citizens – Update on Ongoing Demonstrations & Road Closures
August 29, 2013
Due to ongoing demonstrations and roadblocks, the U.S. Embassy strongly advises against overland travel outside of major cities in Colombia. U.S. government officials and their families are currently prohibited from travelling overland from Bogota to other parts of the country (air travel policy to/from Bogota has not changed). U.S. government officials and their families are also currently prohibited from travelling overland between Cartagena and Barranquilla.
Road closures have particularly impacted overland travel in Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Putumayo, Cauca, Huila, Nariño, and Risaralda. Ongoing demonstrations have closed major and minor roads and caused shortages of consumer goods in some cities in these areas.
A large demonstration planned for Bogota on August 29, is expected to impact public transportation and cause traffic delays and disruptions. Local authorities have closed public schools on August 29, and most private schools have followed suit.
The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. Citizens to monitor our demonstration notices at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/demonstrations.html as well as local media for developments. As always, we advise U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.