PBI-Colombia accompanies NOMADESC at march calling for social investment, an end to violence in Buenaventura
On February 12, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project tweeted: “PBI accompanies NOMADESC in Cali calling attention to the situation of escalation of violence and violations of human rights in Buenaventura. Villagers denounce clashes, murders, forced disappearances and urban displacement.”
Last night, El Pais reported: “A large group of people took to the streets in Cali this Thursday [February 11] to support the inhabitants of Buenaventura, reject the violence in the port and ask for more social investment.”
That article adds: “Members of social groups, students, community leaders and citizens in general began to meet at 5:00 p.m. in the Parque de las Banderas, south of Cali. Around 6:30 p.m., the protesters took Fifth Street toward the San Francisco square, downtown Cali, where the day ended.”
And Blu Radio reported: “Alfredo Mondragón, a social leader in Valle del Cauca, said it is not possible for the port to move more than 6 trillion pesos in a year and the district’s budget to not exceed 500 billion. He indicated the port does not need military presence, but social support in order to cut the problem of conflict in this root district.”
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.
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”.
The port accounts for about 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.
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.
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.
PBI-Canada remains attentive and concerned to this situation.
PBI-Colombia has accompanied NOMADESC since 1999.