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Abuses by the Public Security Forces during Buenaventura strike

1 Jun 2017 – 5:00 PM


By Alfredo Molano Jimeno

The Buenaventura Human Rights Committee has recorded nine people injured by firearms and stated that the Public Security Forces have been involved in these events.  President Santos has appointed as negotiator the Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Rivera.

After 18 days’ strike in Buenaventura and the government trying to normalise the situation, the Watchdog Committee for Human Rights – Civic Strike to Live with Dignity and Peace in Buenaventura – delivered a report with allegations of abuses carried out  by members of the Anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and the National Police.

With photographic evidence of the wounded, bullet shells and details of the way in which members of the Public Security Forces carried out attacks against the demonstrators, the Watchdog Committee presented the media with their report on the human rights situation  during the protests at Colombia’s main Pacific port.

The inhabitants of Buenaventura are protesting the historic abandonment of the port by the Colombian state:  in recent years, armed groups have increased their struggle for the control of neighbourhoods, poverty affects 80% of the population as well as unemployment and illiteracy, which are around 60%.  In addition, the people of the port reject the political class that has run the local administration for decades, the selective killings and forced disappearances – even to the extent of  “casas de pique” [houses of dismemberment] which have been discovered and condemned by the people.

The human rights report warned that “in a joint action between the ESMAD and members of the SIJÍN (police intelligence) group in a white van, shots were fired at the communities that were at the ‘Place of Delights (Sabrosuras)’. This brutal action of the public security forces left six people seriously injured. The communities were demonstrating against articulated lorries passing through their territory.  The Committee had asked the National Government, at the negotiating table on 28 May 2017, to make these lorries subject to a 72-hour ‘truce’ of transit through their territory”.

The document compiles information on nine people injured by gunshot impact and details hours, places and situations within which the facts were presented. It is important to highlight that all the wounded are under 30 years old and most are between 18 and 23 years old. Another one of the accusations set out by the Strike Committee is the excess of force with which the anti-riot squads acted in an area adjacent to a health centre.

“According to a health centre employee in the district of La Independencia  (employee of the District Hospital of Luis Abianque de la Plata), at approximately 2 am on 31st May, the health centre was filled with tear gas indiscriminately launched in the surrounding areas of the medical centre by ESMAD, affecting both patients and workers – medical mission – (three patients and approximately eight workers). The effects were so severe that one employee had seizures and several became ill” says the report.

The document adds: “the Public Security Force fired their weapons in the surroundings of the medical institution. At approximately 6.30am, the police entered with a wounded policeman injured during the confrontation with one of the demonstrators. This action indicates that the police were aware that there was a medical institution there.  Today, the health centre remains closed and staff says they cannot re-enter because there are no guarantees that they can provide the service. “

In the end, the Strike Committee has requested the accompaniment of representatives of human rights organizations, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Attorney General and the United Nations. President Juan Manuel Santos has appointed the newly-inaugurated Minister of Interior, Guillermo Rivera, to be the voice of the government at the conciliation table which seeks to agree on the steps that will allow the Port to return to normal.

Source (in Spanish):

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