Hard-hitting report from the human rights commission of the Buenaventura Civic Strike: excessive use of force, police infiltration, barriers to hospital treatment for the wounded, children at risk of violence by the police. This is how the report describes the “war treatment” for the civilian population who are on strike. The commission doubts the role of the Ombudsman.
Today the Human Rights Oversight Commission of the Civic Strike in Buenaventura denounced the “cruel use of force” and an “unprecedented onslaught” against the community by the Public Security Force in the city that had been standing together in peaceful civic strike for 17 days. With a report accompanied by graphic evidence, the commission revealed that in a joint action, the ESMAD and members of SIJIN (police intelligence) fired on members of the community that were trying to prevent access to the port by articulated lorries, leaving six people seriously injured.
While in the Pacific city the mobilization continues, the commission has moved to Bogotá to condemn these events at a press conference (In the photo: Adriel Ruiz, Carolina Mina, Danelly Estupiñán and Berenice Celeita). It has done so after a Citizens’ Assembly at 9 am at the Pascual de Andagoya School in Buenaventura, from which the Civic Strike Committee insisted: “the Government has refused to show significant progress and to provide complete information on the meaning and strategic purpose of the humanitarian space within the framework of indefinite Civic Strike (…) We reiterate that in no way has the Executive Committee relaxed in the face of the Government’s demands”.
It is clear that after the 17 days’ strike in the main port of the country, the Civic Strike Committee and the Government continue with positions that are very far from each other. The strike was peaceful until 19 May when there were strong clashes between the community and the police. There were also a number of episodes of looting of commercial chains in various parts of the city where there had so far been no response from the police. Since then, according to the commission, the civilian population has been receiving “warlike treatment” and indiscriminate attacks have been carried out with tear gas and firearms which have left more than 300 injured, of which 20 percent are children.
One of the main problems faced by local communities has been the lack of access to medical treatment for those injured in the fighting due to the absence of a public hospital in the municipality, paradoxically, one of the reasons for the strike. The only medical centre in the city, the Santa Sofia Clinic, is private and, according to Carolina Mina – a member of the commission, the humanitarian organizations had to pay for the care of the wounded.
“In a moment of hope for peace it is very contradictory that President Santos receives the community of Buenaventura with bullets “
Medical attention has been violated by the police action. According to the commission’s report, in the early hours of 31st May the ESMAD used tear gas inside the health centre located in the Independencia neighbourhood. The health centre is currently closed because there are no guarantees of continuity of service provision. According to Carolina Mina, because of shortcomings in the healthcare service, two pregnant women have lost their babies and children affected by severe asphyxia are not being transferred to facilities with proper medical care. There are presently 167 people who are seriously injured, according to the commission’s report.
“The Santa Sofia clinic is totally militarized. The ESMAD violated one of the health posts and went there to launch tear gas. The level of abuse and the exacerbated use of the force is extremely high,” states Danelly Estupiñán, also a member of the Civic Strike Committee. “We refuse to accept that the Colombian Government has given a military response to an issue that could have been resolved politically, as if social protests were a crime. The attacks on the community do not stop but the community continues to fight to achieve the dignity that we deserve as a people,” adds Estupiñán, who also says that, beyond direct attacks with firearms or tear gas, there are agents infiltrating the peaceful protests. “In every meeting place there have been agents infiltrated, even where only cultural activities are happening. They are filming, taking pictures, as well as going through attendance lists with names and telephone numbers of people who were there. “
The commission also denounces the lack of verification of human rights violations on the part of the Public Security Forces. This ought to be carried out by governmental bodies. “The role of the Ombudsman in this scenario has been really poor. They have not fulfilled their role as guarantors nor have they been able to mediate with the Public Security Forces to stop harassment or excesses against the community,” says Carolina Mina, ” They have not exercised their duty of accompanying the communities.”
Berenice Celeita issued a statement on behalf of the Process of Black Communities and directed to President Juan Manuel Santos. “At a time when the whole country and the whole world are directing their gaze towards Colombia, in the hope of peace, it is very contradictory that it is with bullets that you receive the community of Buenaventura, responding with violence to people who have a [ethnic] chapter in the Peace Accords.” She added: “We are surprised that the ESMAD is used as a force of peace, when in Buenaventura it is proving to be a violent and repressive force.”
Source (in Spanish):