While Buenaventura was without electricity after an attack by the FARC, a FORPP team headed out to accompany the Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP) in Buenaventura, where we visited the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space, the Wounaan indigenous community from Aguaclara, who remain displaced in the Buenaventura Coliseum, and the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Reserve of Santa Rosa de Guayacán next to the Calima River.
The Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space is located in the neighborhood of La Playita, and when we entered the neighborhood, the store where we had bought cheese during previous visits was closed—the vender, Franklin López Artiztizabal disappeared in late May and there is still no news as to his whereabouts. Many venders in the neighborhood are being extorted by presumed paramilitary groups, and in April of this year the vender Wilder Ubeimar, who maintained his storefront only 100 meters from that of Franklin López, was assassinated. Wilder Ubeimar had refused to pay the extortions.
In the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space we spoke with community members who told us about some organizational advances. Each time we visit the community of Puente Nayero the threats of a forced displacement are higher due to the amplification of the port zone into the areas inhabited by residents living in stilt houses over the water. The execution of this plan for a pier and hotel zone is slotted to happen this June.
The majority of residents living in stilt houses in Buenaventura came from rural areas to the municipal capital of Buenaventura, fleeing the violence and poverty around the rivers. This time we went with CIJP to one of these rivers and visited the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Reserve of Santa Rosa de Guayacán, on the shore of the Calima River, which flows into to the San Juan River, connecting the region with the Pacific coast. The indigenous Nonam community displaced in 2010 after a paramilitary invasion that left a trail of victims in the river basin of San Juan and Bajo Calima. During their displacement in the municipal capital of Buenaventura, the community suffered not only from precarious humanitarian conditions due to the lack of adequate food, water, education, and access to medical attention, be it traditional or Western—but in the capital they also received threats against their lives from paramilitary groups. A year later they decided to return on account of the overly precarious conditions they faced during their displacement. Owing to the lack of attention to the community’s integral security on behalf of the Colombian state, and in order to push the state to guarantee a return with dignity and security, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights granted precautionary measures to the community. In spite of the district government’s noncompliance with these guarantees, the Nonam community returned on their own account, declaring their reclaimed land as the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Reserve of Santa Rosa Guayacán. Today, signs permitting entrance exclusively to the unarmed civil population delineate the Reserve’s borders. The community itself has constructed a new provisional village center and is still awaiting integral and differential attention from the district government, including decent housing for all of the families. Additionally, the presence of various armed groups in the river basin of San Juan continues to affect the community’s security and to threaten their ability to stay in the Reserve.
Five years after the forced displacement of the community of Santa Rosa de Guayacán, the Wounaam community of Aguaclara, also from the San Juan river basin, now finds itself displaced. In November 2014, threats and assassinations from armed groups operating in the zone forced the community to displace. Since then the community of Aguaclara has been taking refuge in the Coliseum in the municipal capital of Buenaventura, waiting to return to their territory, which is an integral part of their lives. The initial verification commissions showed that there are many damages and robberies in the communities and that above all they are still missing the necessary conditions for a secure, lasting, and dignified return. Although the community handed in a proposal to the Ministry of the Interior for a return as a “humanitarian community,” there is still no route for a dignified return or for measures that would protect the community. Meanwhile, during our visit we observed that the humanitarian situation in the Coliseum is very precarious. The community, which has denounced the causes of their displacement from the start, and to which the National Victims Unit should respond, lacks sufficient food for all the families, and as well as access to basic tools and conditions to continue with the children’s education.
Back in Bogotá, we heard about another displacement of at least 110 Wounaan to the municipal capital of Buenaventura. The families belong to the community of El Papayo – a rural area along the Litoral de San Juan (Chocó) – and have been threatened by armed groups. With Colombia having the second highest number of internally displaced people worldwide, forced displacements in Buenaventura are only one part of the picture. The armed conflict and economic interests are main causes of this forced displacement. With the restart of bombardements and the end of the unilateral ceasefire, combined with ongoing megadevelopment projects, there seems to be no end to massive forced displacement in sight.