On June 2, 2017, the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) attacked Afro-Colombian communities after they convened a series of peaceful protests calling for better living conditions in Buenaventura, Colombia. The authorities used tear gas against protesters, blocked roads, raided houses, and physically assaulted and verbally harassed several residents throughout the area. Marino Cordoba, an active advocate for the affected communities and President of the local civil society organization National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), also received a death threat last week.
Historically, the Afro-Colombian communities in Colombia have been victims of violence, displacement, and racial discrimination. Corruption and resource mismanagement at the local level have prevented nearly 400,000 Afro-Colombian residents from gaining access to clean water, adequate housing, healthcare, as well as economic and political rights in the port city of Buenaventura. To elicit a response from Colombia’s national government and to have their needs met, citizens went on strike for nearly three weeks last month.
On June 5, 2017, the Colombian government participated in negotiations with community representatives from Buenaventura to end the strike and to invest resources into the region for better housing, infrastructure, health services, and access to justice. This is a positive sign which indicates both parties’ willingness to work together to reduce conflict through dialogue. However, the Colombian government must commit to respecting the political rights of the country's Afro-Colombian citizens and end its use of police brutality against protesters.
The World Movement for Democracy joins the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD), a platform of more than 520 organizations that defend democracy and human rights, in demanding that the Colombian government continues to address the grievances of Buenventura's marginalized Afro-Colombian residents. Additionally, the government must designate trustworthy security and protection to Cordoba as well as other threatened members of civil society. . Click here to join us in sharing this solidarity tweet to call for justice for the people of Buenaventura!