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Santos to seek pact with Colombia's farm sector

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bogota, Aug 30 (EFE).- President Juan Manuel Santos vowed Friday to seek an accord with Colombia's beleaguered agricultural sector, hailing the decision by protesting farmers to lift the roadblocks that have hampered transportation in the Andean nation for the last 12 days.

"We will work to construct a grand national pact for agriculture and rural development and we will include all interested parties in that process," the president said in a televised address from his office.

Santos, flanked by leaders of major business and trade associations, said his commitment to pursuing such a pact was the product of a "long and constructive" meeting with representatives of all sectors of the Colombian economy.

"We have to convert this situation we have experienced in these recent days into a great opportunity and once and for all give the country a clear signal about future intentions in the matter of agricultural development," the president said.

He also celebrated the end of the road blockades that have left entire cities and towns cut off.

The protesters announced their intention to lift the roadblocks earlier Friday, shortly after Santos took to the airwaves to say he was pulling his officials out of talks with the farmers, accusing them of intransigence.

Besides breaking off the talks, the president ordered the military to patrol Bogota's streets after Thursday's disturbances left two dead, more than 100 injured and stores and other establishments vandalized in the capital.

Protest marches in Bogota and other cities in support of the farmers were followed by violent incidents.

"These actions anger and upset all Colombians," the head of state said, adding that "unfortunately many of these demonstrations are infiltrated by vandals bent on doing damage."

"I deployed the military in Bogota (Thursday) night and I'll do the same starting Friday in any municipality or any area where our soldiers' presence is needed," Santos said.

The farm sector partially blames its troubles on Colombia's free-trade agreement with the United States, which took effect in May 2012 and has allowed cheaper U.S. imports to enter the Andean nation.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130830/santos-seek-pact-colombias-farm-sector