- OPEN LETTER TO COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT MANUEL SANTOS - BUENAVENTURA IS IN A STATE OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS -
As you know there has been a Paro Civico (civic stoppage) indefinite general strike that has been mounted by the entire population of the Pacific port of Buenaventura since 16 May. They demand:
• For their HEALTH, a second or third level hospital
• EDUCATION that is Pertinent and of Quality
• WATER and basic sanitation
• Their TERRITORY for the land is theirs
• A clean ENVIRONMENT and safeguarding of natural resources
• EMPLOYMENT with Dignity and a Decent Life for Workers
• JUSTICE and Attention to the victims of Violence
• RECREATION with spaces for leisure, sport and culture
The Paro Civico Committee’s eight demands reflect the will of the entirety of civil society in the port city, as has been demonstrated not only by the comprehensive affiliation of organisations to the committee, but even more so by the repeated and varied demonstrations of 150,000 inhabitants.
ARE AFRO COLOMBIANS INVISIBLE STILL?
As you also know, around 95% of the Buenaventura’s population are of African descent. They are owed a historic debt, for from the days of the capture and enslavement on African Colombians have enriched colonial powers and the Colombian elite, whilst themselves kept in poverty. In Buenaventura the poverty is 63% and the real rate of unemployment even higher. THESE PROBLEMS ARE NOT INVISIBLE TO YOU! THE QUESTION IS WILL YOU RESPOND WITH THE SAME DIGNITY AS THE PEOPLE OF BUENAVENTURA, AND FULFIL YOUR PROMISE OF RESPECT FOR THEIR PROTEST?
WE URGE THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT TO:
LIFT THE MILITARY SIEGE ON THE PEOPLE OF BUENAVENTURA
You have been recognised internationally through the award of the Nobel Peace Prize as a man of peace. And yet under your direction the ESMAD riot police were sent into Buenaventura on 19 May immediately after your delegation withdrew from talks. The subsequent attacks by ESMAD on the civilian population are the primary reason for the disorder that broke out.
AND INSTEAD DECLARE A STATE OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY
The situation demands more than the usual litany of promises that remain unfulfilled, delayed or lost through lack of political will. Whatever constitutional issues that need to be resolved can be overcome with political will. Now is the time for you to show genuine executive leadership and to truly listen to the people.
London 25 May 2017