Since 2014, the international accompaniment organization FOR Peace Presence has accompanied the civil society organizations and humanitarian spaces, as well as the communities of Rios San Juan, Naya, and Calima in the city and surrounding area of Buenaventura.
In recent weeks, we have become increasingly concerned with the deteriorating safety of residents and participants in the civil strike in Buenaventure. Among the denouncements we have recieved from our counterparts, we were deeply saddened to hear that nine young people were injured in open fire from public forces, and that patients and medical personnel in a local hospital were affected by chemical gases sprayed by ESMAD. Tragically, on May 19 a young man was killed by shooting during the disturbances. He was 22 years old.
Two members of our team were present in Buenaventura between the 23rd and 27th of May as international observers of human rights in light of denouncements of abusive police practices, above all those of ESMAD, against civilian participants marching in the strike. During our visit to Buenaventure, we observed the militarization of the city, and as an organization rooted in non-violent action, we believe that the large presence of armed forces during peaceful civil protests only serves to raise tensions and the possibility of violence.
We reiterate the importance of the civil population’s right to protest, especially a population who has suffered for many years from many forms of violence, including the presence of illegal armed actors, extreme poverty, and the lack of services to meet basic needs, such as potable water.
We also call for an end to the repression that has been present for the last two weeks during the civil strike in the city. In a country that is at a historic moment with the Havana Peace Accords, it is even more imporant to reiterate the committment to peace and look for a pacifist resolution through dialogue between the public authorities and civil society.
June 2, 2017
FOR Peace Presence