Sixteen members of Colombia’s cabinet have handed in their resignations to President Juan Manuel Santos, amid ongoing fierce anti - government protests.
The mass resignation was presented on Monday, a move that would allow Santos to reshuffle the cabinet. Santos has not yet given a response to the joint resignations. The decision came just days after Santos was forced to deploy troops on August 30 to the capital Bogota following violent protests, which killed two people. Rallies are still being held despite the deployment and partial agreements, which allowed many roads to be cleared from the barricades. The ongoing protests began on August 19 when farmers put up the roadblocks on highways across the country, to show their resentment against Colombia’s free-trade agreements (FTA) with the United States and Europe. The farm workers say their sector is suffering by the FTAs, arguing that they have been undercut by cheap imports, including potatoes, onions and milk and that they cannot compete with European and American companies, which have subsidies, low production costs and high technology. Santos has admitted that the country’s farmers are experiencing hard times, with rising costs and competition from imports. He also has promised to impose price controls on fertilizer and pesticides, however, Santos has not given a timeline as to when the measures would take effect. Meanwhile, Santos’ approval ratings have plunged to below 50 percent in July from a high of 74 percent when he became president in 2010. Analysts say the cabinet shuffle, the second in little over a year, would give Santos a chance to strengthen his team ahead of next year’s presidential election. Santos has not announced whether he will run for re-election in May, however, he has said he would like his policies to extent into the next administration.