International Rally Against Violence in Buenaventura

ACSN opposes violence, racism, and the imposition of development projects that do not benefit Black communities. Today, we participated in a demonstration in the main plaza of Cali in opposition to the violence in Buenaventura.

Buenaventura is the most important port on Colombia’s Pacific coast. More than half of the country’s international commerce passes through its shipyards. Nevertheless, 80% of Buenaventura’s majority Black population lives in poverty, but the city is not starved for government attention. It is ground zero for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and the Pacific Alliance. Soldiers patrol the streets while investors in large-scale development projects plan the displacement of black neighborhoods in the name of modernization.

The levels of violence in Buenaventura are genocidal. Buenaventura is one of the world’s murder capitals; in the first four months of 2014, 87 murders were reported in a city of less than 400,000 people. But not all murders are reported. People are routinely disappeared, and armed groups restrict free movement throughout the city. Social movements and neighborhood associations receive death threats for challenging large-scale economic development projects and government policies. Rumors of an ongoing femicide are confirmed by the systematic disappearance of women. The forms of violence evolve in order to induce more terror throughout the population. Several “slaughterhouses” (casas de pique) are infamously used to dismember people. Fear of violence imposes silence and forces people to leave.  In 2013 alone, over 13,000 people were forcibly displaced from Buenaventura because of violence.[1]

Pervasive military presence in the city does not guarantee security or even the arrival of basic services. For at least ten years, Buenaventura’s residents have not had steady access to running water. In June 2014, many people in Buenaventura can at best hope for running water for a few hours every other day–at worst once a week. This situation is all the more unacceptable given Buenaventura’s close proximity to numerous freshwater sources. This is the reality in the rhetoric–accumulation of wealth at the expense of Black people. It is symbolic of what is happening in black communities in Colombia and throughout the African Diaspora.

Today’s demonstration was an expression of discontent with the government and Colombian society’s lack of determination to end violence in Buenaventura. We demand peace.

[1] Human Rights Watch 2014: 1

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