BOGOTA – Representatives of the Colombian government and truckers who have been on strike for the past 37 days resumed talks Wednesday at a meeting attended by the president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference.
The government sat down with the truckers at the Transport Ministry and delivered them a proposal that they are to study before the two sides meet again in a few hours, sources with that portfolio told EFE.
Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro attended the meeting at the truckers’ request, saying upon his arrival at the ministry’s headquarters that he had merely been asked to lend his “presence” and stressing that he is not “an expert on these matters.”
“It’s not even at my initiative, and we hope this social problem is resolved as soon as possible and in an ethical manner,” he told Caracol Radio.
The talks had been suspended on Tuesday after an auto accident involving the governor of the north-central province of Boyaca, Cesar Andres Amaya Rodriguez, on a road partially barricaded by protesters in that region.
Hours later, authorities confirmed that a demonstrator identified as Luis Orlando Saenz was killed in Duitama, a town in Boyaca province, apparently after being shot in the face.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said Tuesday that the “level of aggressive behavior associated with this protest has risen sharply” in recent days.
He added that there had been 81 attempts to block roads in different regions of the country since the strike began and that two road blockades were currently in place and would be cleared by authorities.
The protests, launched after the government allegedly failed to address concerns related to the higher cost of fuel, tolls and freight, has left a total of 18 police wounded and 75 people arrested.
After 37 days, Colombians have started to feel the effect of the strike in the form of higher food prices in several regions and shortages of the traditional arepas (corn pancakes), a basic staple of many Colombians’ diets.