PBI-Colombia accompanies NOMADESC as ESMAD riot police fire tear gas in Buga

Published by Brent Patterson on

Image from Infobae.

On May 13, PBI-Colomba posted: “Today PBI accompanied NOAMDESC in Guadalajara de Buga. Organizations and human rights commission alert to the disproportionate use of force by the ESMAD against protesters and affecting residents.”

NOMADESC further comments: “ESMAD disproportionately attacks protesters and residents of the Aures and Paloblanco neighborhoods in Buga.”

The city and the blockades

Guadalajara de Buga is a city in the department of Valle del Cauca. It is situated east of the port of Buenaventura and north of the city of Cali.

Infobae reports: “Major General Fernando Murillo Orrego indicated that ten blockades have been identified between the municipalities of Zarzal and Buga, three of which are in the vicinity of the latter municipality [Buga] that connects to Buenaventura, Colombia’s most important port [on the Pacific Ocean].”

Vanguardia notes: “The blockades impact the whole country since Buenaventura imports between 50% and 60% of the non-traditional trade burden that enters Colombia. The road corridor is closed by blockades in two parts, in Restrepo and Buga, which has caused paralysis of the local economy and foreign trade activities.”

250 Police and National Army

The Infobae article highlights: “On Thursday, May 13, a group of more than 250 uniformed police accompanied by the National Army was mobilized to proceed with the unlocking of these sectors of the Pan American Highway.”

Caracol adds: “More Army troops also arrived in Buga, disembarking for two minutes from a helicopter that landed at the SENA [National Training Service, a Ministry of Labour vocational program] headquarters, which generated controversy.”

Use of tear gas, 48 injured

La FM reports: “According to complaints from the community [in Buga], several people in the Aures neighborhood were affected by the use of tear gas and there are also said to have been about 48 injured, who were transferred to San José Hospital in this town.”

El Espectador also notes: “Citizens denounce abuses by members of the public force and use of tear gas in residential neighborhoods.”

Expired tear gas

This short video from El Parche Crítico also expresses the concern: “ESMAD fired expired tear gas at the protesters in Buga, some of them expired since 2014.”

US-made tear gas

Earlier this week, The Nation reported: “Through US arms sales programs, the Colombian government has equipped Colombia’s riot control police known as the ESMAD with US-made stun grenades and tear gas, used to terrorize protesters, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).”

That article adds: “Following recent protests, international organizations like WOLA and Peace Brigades International are calling on Congress to end the sale of equipment and training to ESMAD until reforms are made. Colombia remains the largest recipient of US foreign aid in Latin America, receiving over $400 million per year, half of which is allocated for military and security programs.”

Past statement on US tear gas sales to Colombia

This joint statement signed by WOLA, the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective, Amazon Watch and numerous other groups in December 2019 also noted: “Many of the ESMAD’s weapons, including tear gas and ‘bean bags’ are purchased with the Colombian government’s own funds through U.S. arms sales programs.”

“Much of its materiel, for instance, comes from one Pennsylvania-based company, Combined Systems, Inc., which sells tear gas canisters and stun grenades to Colombia.”

That statement adds: “We call on the State Department and the U.S. Congress to place a moratorium on sales of crowd control weapons to Colombia until the ESMAD has either been replaced by a new force or undergone a full overhaul toward building a dramatically different, more rights-respecting culture and doctrine based on de-escalation, respect for peaceful protest, and minimal use of force.”

Statement from NOMADESC, dhColombia and other organizations.

It says: “The agents have violently and indiscriminately attacked those in the scene with unconventional weapons and tear gas, and adults have been injured and affected. …We call the attention of the international community to make an immediate pronouncement and thus avoid containing the critical situations in this municipality of the Cauca Valley.”

Categories: News Updates


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *