At least 7 million campesinos have been displaced as a result of Colombia’ armed conflict, said President of the Federation of Agrarian Unions (Fensuagro) Eberto Diaz in an interview with teleSUR on Tuesday.
Moreover, governmental policies under President Juan Manuel Santos have deprived campesinos of 10 million hectares of land, he added.
Less than 6.3 percent of the sparsely-populated countryside registered by the National Department of Statistics (Dane) is used for cultivation, said Diaz, quoting the agency’s Third National Agrarian Register 2015.
Santos even recently recognized the country's soil was badly exploited. “The countryside remains extremely backward compared with the rest of the country, concentrating poverty and inequality. If we want peace, we have to pay more attention to the countryside,” said Santos, according to local media La FM.
The social leader highlighted that over 80 percent of the rural population had no access to electricity and almost 60 percent no access to drinking water.
Santos' policies have been favoring agribusiness, he added, forcing campesinos to abandon their lands and only sell “their labor force.” He criticized the fact that Santos had not set up new criteria before the so-called free trade deals with Europe and North America. Such trade agreements have resulted in selling cheaper foreign products in Colombia, as they are often state-subsidized, generating unequal competition for Colombian products.
Meanwhile, banks are applying the same conditions to access credit, making the situation unviable as a campesino cannot pay the interest rate as easily as a businessman, he added.
He recommended that specific policies favoring the campesino sector should be implemented, for instance a “zero percent (interest) rate” for credit, and improving their access to land, education, social security, among other basic services.