Violent Repression of Civic Strike in Buenaventura, Colombia: Tell the US Government Peaceful Resolution of Genuine Problems is Needed

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Witness for Peace is gravely concerned about the Colombian government’s response to the ongoing general strike currently taking place in the Afro-Colombian port city of Buenaventura and the Pacific region. On Tuesday, May 16th, 2017, 89 civil society organizations joined together under the umbrella of the Civil Strike Committee (Comité del Paro Cívico) began an indefinite general strike in Buenaventura, planned well in advance. This ongoing general strike is also taking place in the department of Chocó.

While the general strike in Buenaventura has been highly organized and mostly peaceful, local social movements as well as Colombian Senator Alexander López recently denounced the violent and provocative conduct of the National Police and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) on Friday, May 19th. When the ESMAD was ordered to clear a peaceful blockade, they used gases, helicopters, stun bombs, tanks, and firearms against children, pregnant women, young people, and elderly adults. There are reports of babies dying due to the gases, and also reports of artisanal fisherman being threatened by the Gaitanista paramilitary group for their participation in the strike in Buenaventura. Many national media reports have focused on some instances of looting, while failing to discuss the strike organizers’ demands and the tremendous organization that went into planning and maintaining the protests.

Demand that the U.S. State Department and congressional leadership working on foreign relations pressure the Colombia government to reach a positive solution.

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