U.S. Academics and NGOs Insist on Protection for Leaders and Implementation of the Buenaventura Civic Strike Accords

Versión en español

February 16, 2021

On November 18, 2020, we the undersigned and representatives of civil and academic organizations who participated in the discussion about the status of the civic strike agreements organized by the University of Florida and the University of Arizona, publicly insist that the Colombian government headed by President Iván Duque prioritize the implementation of the agreements signed between the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee and Colombian government entities. The U.S. Congress, a political and commercial ally due to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, should force its counterpart to keep its word to the people of Buenaventura.

First, we express our deep concern for the physical security of leaders who are part of the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee and the accompanying and allied organizations of this process in Colombia.

In particular, we are very concerned that at least three members of the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee are facing complex situations of insecurity and that the State’s response has been insufficient to guarantee their physical integrity. These leaders include Leyla Andrea Arroyo and Dañelly Estupiñán, leaders of the Black Communities Process (PCN), John Janer Panameño, president of the Isla de la Paz neighborhood community action board, and Adriel Ruiz Galván, coordinator of the Foundation Spaces of Coexistence and Social Development (FUNDESCODES).

Ms. Arroyo recently received a death threat from unknown men while she was eating at a restaurant. Mr. Panameño has recorded surveillance of her person and received death threats on her phone. Ms. Estupiñán has also recorded surveillance, received death threats, and the situation deteriorated to the point that she had to travel internally to guarantee her safety. On November 2, Mr. Galva received numerous death threats via the WhatsApp application.

Due to the murder of the historic Afro-Colombian leader Temistocles Machado, known by the nickname “Don Temis,” and constant attacks against members of the civic strike, we urge the governments of the United States and Colombia to:

  1. Ensure that the Attorney General’s Office investigates and punishes all those responsible (both material and intellectual authors) linked to these attacks against social leaders and civil society involved in the work of the Buenaventura Civic Strike.
  • Implement, in a consulted and concerted manner with the beneficiaries, protection measures that are effective to guarantee the lives of the people in question and their families, in a way that integrates an ethnic and gender differentiation.

In terms of what was agreed between the Colombian authorities and the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee, we see it important that both prioritize the implementation of the following:

3) The legal clarification of the territory. To advance with what was agreed with the Territory, Housing and Infrastructure working group, it is necessary to resolve the issue of the territorial rights of Black and Indigenous ethnic peoples and to advance with the titling of individual properties and public assets – INURBE.

4) Review the affairs of the Dragados Bahía and Aguacate and San Antonio estuaries. The meetings of the Environment, Productivity, Employment and Territory, Housing and Infrastructure working groups did not take place. The details of the dredging projects of the access channel to Buenaventura Bay and the Aguacate and San Antonio estuaries were not publicized. The working groups did not have the opportunity to analyze these infrastructure projects. Therefore, they advanced without institutional and community input of the possible effects and environmental damage caused. There was no verification of said works with the affected ethnic communities and their fundamental right to prior consultation and participation for said works was violated. In summary, the government signed contracts to dredge the access channel to Buenaventura Bay and the San Antonio Estuary, completely ignoring the civic strike agreement. As a result of this, these projects must be put on hold until due process is fully carried out with the organizations and communities whose rights have been violated.

5) The District POT Formulation of Buenaventura. In accordance with what was negotiated with the Territory, Housing and Infrastructure working group, the district mayor’s office has not asked the Ministry of the Interior to initiate prior consultation for the POT. According to the Committee, the mayor’s office and the Ministry of the Interior are unaware of the prior consultation agreement and promote a path for citizen participation with community councils. The Ministry of the Interior and the DNP have not convened the construction session of the proposed route for prior consultation of the formulation of the District POT. The governments of the United States and Colombia must insist that these entities comply with this obligation.

6) The development of a public policy of access to justice and rural energization. In accordance with the working group on access to Justice, Victim, Protection and Memory, advances are required in both things.

7) Approval and implementation of collective protection measures for 4 priority collective subjects within the framework of the Buenaventura Civic Strike Movement. To date, only the measures of one of the collective subjects have been approved. The Human Rights, Guarantees and Protection working group emphasizes the need to approve and implement these measures.

8) Investigation of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation on the facts of violation of human rights by ESMAD. In three years, the Prosecutor’s Office has not made official results of the investigation into the victimizing events that occurred during the 22 days of the civic strike and subsequent days. To guarantee non-repetition and ensure justice for the victims, it is essential that such an investigation be initiated with prompt results.

9) Advance with the IACHR’s Visit to Buenaventura to verify the status of the right to participation in the framework of social protest. In three years, the Foreign Ministry has not processed the Colombian government’s invitation to the IACHR to visit Buenaventura. The U.S. government should urge the Duque administration to move forward with this expert visit. 

10) Construction, provision and commissioning of the new headquarters of the Centro Náutico Pesquero – CNP – SENA. This work was projected for 18 months, started in 2017. Three deadlines have been scheduled, without meeting. (This agreement is from 2014 – Shock Plan – March to bury violence and live with dignity). 

11) Creation of a legal commission to lead regulatory processes, adjustments of existing regulations and formulation of legislative initiatives and presentation to the Congress of the Republic of Colombia.

12) Transfer to FONBUENAVENTURA of the resources of the prioritized agreements effective 2019, not executed by the Ministries and decentralized entities. More than 18 months after FONBUENAVENTURA was established, it has not started its operation and most of the resources not executed from prioritized agreements from the 2017 to 2019 terms have not been transferred.

Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Director for the Andes, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Dr. Carlos de la Torre, Director, Center for Latin American Studies, The University of Florida*
Dr. Marcela Vásquez-León, Director, Center for Latin American Studies, The University of Arizona*
Dr. Joel Correia, Assistant Professor, Center for Latin American Studies, The University of Florida*

Dr. Anthony Dest, Assistant Professor, Lehman College* 

*Asteriks indicate that they are signing in their personal capacity and that affiliation is for identification purposes only.

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February 17, 2021

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