PBI-Colombia accompanies NOMADESC at event on 2nd anniversary of the murder of Temistocles Machado

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On January 27, NOMADESC posted, “Conversation of the territory defender Don Temistocles Machado at the Banco de la República [cultural centre] in Buenaventura.”

War on Want has previously noted, “The social organisations and human rights organisations of the Inter-organisational Committee of Buenaventura, along with social movements from across Colombia, denounce the assassination of community leader Temistocles Machado, defender of human rights and member of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) and the Inter-organisational Committee of Buenaventura. The murder took place in the Isla de la Peace area of the city of Buenaventura during the afternoon of 27th January 2018.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) highlights that Temistocles Machado was one of the main leaders of a civic strike in Buenaventura.

PSAC explains, “In 2017, the leaders helped organize a massive civic strike—also known as a general strike—in Buenaventura, home to Colombia’s key port on its Pacific coast, to protest the city’s deepening socioeconomic and human rights crisis. For three weeks in May, 114 social organizations took over the streets, holding protest marches, community kitchens and cultural festivals, effectively shutting down Colombia’s most important trading hub.”

“The strike won an agreement containing important concessions from the government to improve public services, including community housing, health services, roads, the justice system, and a new framework agreement to protect the rights of port workers.”

BBC adds, “Machado’s most ambitious work was the collection of tens of thousands of documents that he accumulated to support that he and his neighbors were owners of the lands on which they had settled more than half a century ago.”

“For Don Temis, each document was a weapon to defend against eviction attempts that had multiplied in the area in recent years.”

“Following a road built in 2006 that divided Isla de Paz in two, the neighborhood became, overnight, a strategic area for commercial activity and port expansion as it linked the city of Buenaventura with the port. Suddenly ‘old owners’ of the neighborhood appeared, with papers and everything, that had not appeared in the place for decades.”

“That is why Don Temis did not hesitate to travel to Bogotá or wherever necessary with his mountain of papers to defend the ownership of the land.”

“At the time of his murder, Don Temis was in a legal dispute with one of the alleged owners of Isla de la Paz, who claims that his grandmother ceded those lands decades ago.”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has accompanied NOMADESC since 2011 and its president Berenice Celeita since 1999.

In an interview with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Celeita has commented, “For Colombia, it’s very important to make visible at the international level what is going on since the peace agreement was signed, and to insist to the government that communities and social organizations be incorporated into the peace process.”

She adds, “We need activists to insist with the Colombian government and the Canadian government that the concept of free, prior and informed consent be respected when engaging in territories that will affect communities’ livelihoods.”

To see a 3-minute Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project video with Berenice talking about the civic strike, please click here.

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