Colombia greets coffee strike with force

Feb. 26, 2013 at 9:14 AM

BOGOTA, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- National Police in Colombia said 15,000 policemen are reporting to duty to maintain order as an estimated 30,000 coffee growers staged demonstrations.

Colombia Reports said Tuesday that street demonstrations demanding government support for the struggling coffee industry occurred in Antioquia, Huila, Risaralda, Quindio and Tolima, regions of Colombia.

Confrontations with protesters resulted in 21 injuries, none of which were considered life-threatening, and reports indicate that most of the protests have been peaceful, Colombia Reports said.

"[Farmers] are paid $282 for a sack of coffee but the cost of producing it is $366. These are small farmers. They are poor. The culture of coffee growing is important to Colombia but we cannot continue like this," Victor Correa, a strike organizer, told Colombia Reports in January.

Correa called the situation "an economic crisis, a social crisis, an institutional crisis and a crisis of production."

But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said no other country matches Colombia for support of coffee growers -- aid that amounts to $1.65 million a month, he said.

"The strike that is happening today is not only inconvenient and unnecessary, it is also unjust," Santos said.

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