Urgent Action: Violence Against Protesters in Buenaventura

Call on Colombian Authorities to End Repression in Buenaventura and to Address Grievances.

A peaceful protester being attacked by ESMAD in Buenaventura.

As the civic strike in Colombia’s Pacific port city of Buenaventura enters its third week, community representatives have opened talks with Colombian state authorities aimed at ending the conflict. Meanwhile, the government’s Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadrons (ESMAD) continue to attack protesters in the streets.

Citizens of Buenaventura have for several years been demanding solutions to the surge in extremely violent crime and paramilitary violence in the city, the collapse of public services, and mass evictions linked to the privatization and expansion of the port.

In the face of state silence, the people of Buenaventura collectively developed a manifesto for resolving eight key problems plaguing the city. These include education, healthcare, housing, and access to the justice system, among others. On May 16, the citizens launched a city-wide strike to pressure Colombian authorities to respond to their manifesto. Tens of thousands of Buenaventura residents walked of the job and took to the streets, blocking traffic to and from Colombia’s principal Pacific port.

Since the Buenaventura civic strike began, a central demand has been to declare in Buenaventura a state of social, economic and ecological emergency. However, the Colombian government has so far dismissed the petition and instead increased police presence in the streets of Buenaventura, suppressing peaceful protests.

Police violence began on May 19th and escalated on throughout the night of May 28,th with security forces using tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and anti-riot vehicles to suppress protests and roadblocks.

Although a dialogue between community spokespeople and Colombian national authorities began on May 29, the government refuses to withdraw riot police from the streets of Buenaventura.

Talks continued on May 30th , but so far no agreement has been reached on the proposals the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee presented to the government.

Buenaventura citizens on strike.

For many years’ CoDev’s Colombian partner NOMADESC has worked with communities suffering the worst effects of port expansion in Buenaventura, providing training and human rights accompaniment. NOMADESC has appealed to CoDev and our Canadian partners to stand in solidarity with the communities of Buenaventura and urge the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to:

  • End to the repression by ESMAD and other state security forces against the people of Buenaventura;
  • Respect the right to peaceful protest, and;
  • Negotiate in good faith with the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee solutions to the multiple crises in the port, which incorporate the concrete proposals generated by the community assemblies of the city.

Please add your voice in solidarity with the workers and citizens of Buenaventura by submitting the letter below, and there are other ways to show your solidarity:

  • Send messages of solidarity to NOMADESC on facebook @AsociacionNomadesc
  • Use your social media outlets and send photos with signs in solidarity tagged to #BturaRESISTE and #Somosbuenaventura
  • Organize solidarity actions outside Colombian embassies or consulates

Urgent Action: Violence Against Protesters in Buenaventura

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