PBI-Colombia accompanied Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission highlights “blockade for peace” at Buenaventura port
Photo of the blockade at Puente del Piñal (bridge) in Buenaventura by @AlCarajoOrg.
On February 4, the PBI-Colombia accompanied Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission tweeted about a “blockade for peace” happening in Buenaventura.
Then on February 5, El Espectador reported: “Tired of being among the crossfire of criminal gangs, a group of people planted on the Piñal Bridge, the only way to access the port of Buenaventura. In Tumaco and Cali there were also demonstrations.”
Blu Radio adds: “The protest led to the paralysis of goods and cargo reaching the different port terminals that are there, resulting in million-dollar losses.”
That morning, Justice and Peace tweeted this video from the blockade.
The following day, Justice and Peace also posted this statement by WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) that noted: “Protests have been held in the port city and even Cali, and more are planned in the coming weeks.”
That statement further highlights: “Local authorities in Colombia must respect the right to peaceful protest, as communities continue to take to the streets to draw attention to Buenaventura’s crisis of violence and poverty.”
WOLA also recently highlighted: “Social justice groups are asking [Colombian president] Ivan Duque, the UN and the OAS to support creating an international mission that would document how state neglect and structural racism are behind the crises of violence and poverty in Colombia’s biggest port city Buenaventura.”
PBI-Colombia has previously noted that the Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC) has undertaken research “to show how the current port expansion and infrastructure development are linked to the human rights violations” and that a report by Justice and Peace explains how living conditions in Buenaventura have deteriorated due to the development and expansion of the port.
The port accounts for nearly 60 per cent of all Colombian imports and exports by sea. Given two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled $1.73 billion in 2017, goods coming from and going to Canada undoubtedly pass through this port.
The Colombian government intends to further expand the port with an LNG regasification terminal. The government will award the contract to build, own and operate that LNG terminal on March 8. The terminal would be operational by 2023.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) recently noted this webinar hosted by CoDevelopment Canada (CoDev) about the situation in Buenaventura that featured NOMADESC president Berenice Celeita.
Celeita stated: “The extractivist model of economic development affects Colombia and the whole world. Colombia is still one of those countries where the multinationals keep exploiting our national resources: gold, water, oil. But since COVID-19, it’s gotten worse. The people in control are taking advantage of the pandemic to take extraordinary measures.”
Celeita also noted on this webinar that Colombian activists will be seeking international support to have peace declared a human right.
About 85 percent of the 430,000 residents of Buenaventura are Black, about 80 per cent of the population lives in poverty, and the unemployment rate is about 40 per cent.
In May 2017, Buenaventura residents held a 22-day civic strike to protest investment in the port rather than the spending needed to build a local hospital and provide access to potable water. The Colombian government responded with the ESMAD riot police.
Canadian organizations – including CUPE, PSAC, CUPW and the Steelworkers – have worked in solidarity with the leaders of that strike.