Around 30 farmers’ organizations blocked access to the lower house of Congress for eight hours yesterday to protest against a 20% cut to agriculture and rural development in the 2019 budget.
Members of the groups, which included the National Farmers Confederation (CNC) and the General Union of Workers and Farmers (Ugocm), broke into the San Lázaro Legislative Palace complex at 10:00am assisted by Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) deputy Ismael Hernández, who is also the CNC president.
Standing on the building’s forecourt with Congress in session, the protesters demanded a meeting with Morena party deputy and budget committee president Alfonso Ramírez Cuéllar.
The demand was met but after they outlined to Ramírez their opposition to the 20.5% cut announced in the 2019 Economic Package, the union members also insisted on a meeting with Mario Delgado, Morena’s leader in the Chamber of Deputies.
However, when that wish was not granted the protesters decided to block all accesses to the Congress in order to prevent anyone from entering or leaving.
After the legislative session concluded at 3:00pm, lawmakers and Congress employees flowed out of the building but couldn’t leave the grounds.
Some deputies scaled the perimeter fence, defying warnings from security personnel not to do so, while hundreds of employees demanded that lawmakers resolve the situation and put an end to what they described as a “kidnapping.”
When National Action Party (PAN) Deputy Marco Antonio Adame informed them about the progress of negotiations to clear the entry and exit points they shouted, “We want to leave! We’re hungry!”
At about 7:00pm, after a meeting with Delgado, leaders of the farmers’ groups announced that they would end their blockades but maintain their protest.
Delgado told a press conference that no agreement had been reached with the groups with regard to the budget cut but explained that they had committed to present their pleas in a less confrontational manner.
“They’ve taken the decision to return to their states, there was a willingness on the part of the organizations . . . to allow us to enter [Congress] tomorrow,” he said.
At 8:00pm, lawmakers and employees trapped inside the complex were finally permitted to leave via a single exit, a process that took half an hour to complete.
Last Saturday, Finance Secretary Carlos Urzúa presented the new government’s 2019 budget, which was generally described as fiscally prudent and realistic.
The Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) was allocated just over 57.3 billion pesos (US $2.9 billion), about 14.8 billion pesos less than that its predecessor Sagarpa received this year.
President López Obrador has pledged to implement agricultural policies that increase yields of corn and other foodstuffs so that Mexico can achieve food and fodder self-sufficiency.
But some agricultural experts have questioned the viability of the government’s plans, arguing that there is not enough land or water for it to meet its goals.