Colombian Civic Strike Leaders Visit Canada

Buenaventura strikes!

In 2017, social organizations launched a remarkable three-week civic strike that forced the Colombian government to negotiate solutions to the city’s pressing social and human rights crisis. Residents literally shut down Colombia’s most important trade route. Many, many activists were called upon to organize and participate in this momentous event with remarkable success.

The strike won important concessions from the 3 levels government to improve community infrastructure and the collective rights and safety of the inhabitants. Yet threats against the community leaders continue to grow exponentially as plans to expand and modernize the port continue. While the Colombian government signed peace agreements in the autumn of 2017, violence connected to large landowners and corporate economic interests remain active throughout the country.

CoDev was pleased (along with other organizations listed below), to host a high level delegation of three of those Colombian social leaders as they toured Canada from October 25 to November 9, 2018. These leaders represent the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee in Colombia’s principal Pacific port city. Members of the delegation included:

  • Maria Miyela Riascos: spokesperson for the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee. In February 2018, she became one of several strike leaders to receive death threats.
  • Victor Hugo Vidal: spokesperson for the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee, former municipal councillor and an organizer of the Black Communities Process (PCN).
  • Olga Araujo: human rights defender and popular educator for the Association for Social Research and Action (Nomadesc).

As part of the tour, CoDev sponsored an International Solidarity Committee Conference. This conference brought together many of our union partner IS Committee representatives for a memorable day of sharing and learning about not just the historic civic strike in Colombia, but how activists in Canada can learn from our brothers and sisters in Latin America and from each other. Workshops included such topics as: Creative Ways to Engage Members (union) in International Solidarity, Dealing with Divisive Issues in International Solidarity and Community/Labour Alliances to Protect Public Services.

Andrea Duncan, a member of the BC GEU International Solidarity Committee put it best when she said, “Labour’s battles and human rights have absolutely no borders.” This was a sentiment echoed widely throughout the day.

For more information about International Solidarity and how CoDev can provide you and/or your organization with learning opportunities, please contact CoDevelopment Canada at: codev@codev,org or call 604.708.1495.

To read more about the Buenaventura Strike Committee and its historic work, read: You can also listen to a radio interview with Maria Miyela Riascos on Radio Canada Internationale here:

(NOTE: The delegation was organized by Co-Development Canada and the Colombia Frontlines Initiative (includes: Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees)

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