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Dividend Tax Weighed in Colombia to Aid Protesting Farmers

Colombia is considering a tax on dividends to help provide financial assistance to the struggling agricultural industry, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said.

The government will consider various proposals from lawmakers to pay for an increase of two trillion to three trillion pesos ($1 billion to $1.5 billion) in the country’s 2014 budget, Cardenas said today in an interview on Caracol Radio. Proposals also include postponing plans to phase out a 0.4 percent tax on banking transactions.

“Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures,” Cardenas said. “We understand perfectly the difficulties Colombian agriculture has right now, and the great need to give it additional resources.”

Coffee growers, dairy producers and other agricultural workers have blocked highways and staged protests since Aug. 19 over the government’s trade and farm policies, which they say reduce their incomes. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ approval ratings fell to a record low in a Gallup poll published yesterday.

In December, Colombian lawmakers rejected a proposal to introduce a dividend tax as part of a bill to change the tax code to fund increase spending.

Coffee Drop

Colombian agriculture has been hit by a 21 percent drop in coffee prices this year, while Cardenas has said repeatedly that a strong peso has hurt farmers. Even after this year’s decline, the Colombian currency has strengthened 45 percent over the last decade, the best performer among major Latin American currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

The number of Colombians with a favorable image of Santos dropped to 21 percent at the end of August from 48 percent in June, according to a Gallup poll published by Caracol Radio and El Tiempo newspaper.

The peso fell 0.8 percent to 1,956.29 per U.S. dollar today, its weakest level since 2011, extending its decline this year to 9.7 percent.

“This morning the peso got to 1,950 per dollar, the level we wanted to help agriculture and industry,” Cardenas wrote on his Twitter account.

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