PBI-Colombia accompanies Canadian Embassy visit to Buenaventura

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On September 13, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project tweeted, “’The entire population is at risk’: UN Human Rights Colombia, the Canadian Embassy, the Norwegian Embassy, the Spanish Embassy, the French Embassy accompanied by PBI-Colombia, listen to testimonials in Buenaventura, meeting with communities, NOMADESC, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission and authorities.”

Buenaventura has been described as the most violent city in Colombia.

The Guardian has reported that in the first five months of 2019 there have been 51 homicides in Buenaventura, 20 more than during the same period last year.

In February 2019, Arnald García Guiñón, the coordinator of an MSF project in Buenaventura, commented, “Many of its neighbourhoods have arisen from new waves of displacement, with houses built by displaced people. These neighbourhoods lack a clear urban structure, sufficient sanitation services, water supplies, electricity or roads.”

He adds, “Due to its geographical position on the Pacific Ocean and its important port, the area has become a prime hub for the production and trafficking of cocaine.”

“Criminal networks that operate there are committed to extortion, drug dealing, prostitution, and more. Tensions between gangs and armed groups means that violence is always present in the neighbourhoods of Buenaventura. Peaks in violence can even displace people between neighbourhoods within the city itself.”

And he notes, “It is a chaotic city, dominated by a large industrial port, which ordinary people have barely benefited from.”

On that point, PBI-Colombia has posted, “The [May 2015] report by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission Buenaventura: Displacement for a Competitive Economy explains how the living conditions in Buenaventura have deteriorated as a consequence of the economic growth, modernisation and expansion through the development of the port.”

Unfortunately, García Guiñón doesn’t see an end to the violence in Buenaventura.

He says, “I am not particularly optimistic about a decrease in violence in Buenaventura. It is still an area of great strategic importance to several illegal armed groups who wish to control it, so we can continue to expect more displacements, more suffering, more violence.”

PBI-Colombia accompanies NOMADESC which has worked to defend human rights in Buenaventura since 1999.

PBI-Colombia also accompanies the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission which helped establish the “Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space” in Buenaventura in April 2014 and continues to advise residents on protection, security and other issues.

After the visit, the Canadian Embassy in Colombia tweeted the photo above and noted: “We had the privilege of being able to hear the testimonies of #LíderesSociales from #Buenaventura to get to know first-hand your worries and challenges. We will continue to monitor the situation and thank @PBIColombia for facilitating the visit.” 

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