The Colombian government must halt its excessive use of force against protestors taking part in the general strike in Buenaventura, Amnesty International said today.
“Instead of trying to silence the communities of Buenaventura, the Colombian authorities should protect residents and focus on responding to their demands given the critical levels of violence and exclusion suffered by the people who live in Colombia’s Pacific region,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Programme Director.
Communities in the port of Buenaventura declared a general strike on 16 May in protest at the government’s continuing failure to respond to their demands for economic, social and cultural rights, including health, drinking water and education.
The communities denounced the excessive use of violence by the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (ESMAD) against those participating in the general strike in the city of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca.
Local NGO Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) has reported the unjustified use of tear gas against peaceful demonstrators, including children and elderly and disabled people.
Reports indicate that the security forces have detained around 80 people and injured more than a dozen. Yesterday, there were reports that some people had been wounded by firearms at the Sabrosura meeting point in the R9 neighbourhood.
Amnesty International has received denunciations that tear gas canisters have been thrown from helicopters and that police officers have broken into residents’ homes.
The right to peaceful protest must be protected, even more so when demonstrators include children and elderly and disabled people who are legitimately demanding their rightsErika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International
“The right to peaceful protest must be protected, even more so when demonstrators include children and elderly and disabled people who are legitimately demanding their rights,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Members of the community also report that ESMAD is inciting disturbances to provide an excuse for dispersing demonstrators and clearing the way for lorries to move goods to and from the port of Buenaventura, the country’s most important port.
The strike is in its sixteenth day and although negotiations have begun with the government, the demonstrators say there has still been no practical response to their requests. The communities regret that yesterday the government did not respond to the demands formulated by the general strike committee.
The Colombian state owes a historic debt to these communities. It is time for it to fulfil its duties and help those who most need protectionErika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International
“The Colombian state owes a historic debt to these communities. It is time for it to fulfil its duties and help those who most need protection,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.