PBI-Colombia has posted: “We accompanied @Nomadesc [the Association for Social Research and Action] in a meeting with @CIDH [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] in Buenaventura, to follow up on the ‘civic strike’ agreements. It is urgent to overcome impunity, and provide guarantees to the territory and those who inhabit it.”

The PBI-Colombia social media post follows a post from Nomadesc that says: “In compliance with the agreements of the civic strike to live with dignity and peace in the territory, the on-site Commission @CIDH arrives in Buenaventura. Among the urgent requests is the overcoming of impunity and the protection of life, territory and culture.”

In a media statement, the IACHR announced it: “will conduct an official visit to Colombia from April 15 to 19, at the invitation of the State. It will be his first on-site visit to the country since 2012. The purpose of the visit is to observe the impacts of different forms of violence on the human rights situation, with special attention to the ethnic-racial and gender dimensions. To this end, it will focus on two main aspects: a) the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement and b) citizen security, from the perspective of the various manifestations of violence and the state’s response to this problem.”

2017 Civic Strike

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has explained: “In 2017, [there was] a massive civic strike—also known as a general strike—in Buenaventura, home to Colombia’s key port on its Pacific coast, to protest the city’s deepening socioeconomic and human rights crisis. For three weeks in May, one hundred and fourteen social organizations took over the streets, holding protest marches, community kitchens and cultural festivals, effectively shutting down Colombia’s most important trading hub.”

In June 2017, WOLA highlighted: “The initial response of the government was to violently repress and attack protestors, who were non-violent and included women, the elderly, and children. The Civic Strike Committee reported multiple instances of excessive use of force by the anti-riot police ESMAD. Numerous videos and photos support these claims. The ombudsman’s office reported 91 complaints of excessive use of force by ESMAD, of which 39 were reported to the Attorney General’s Office due to their severity.”

While many promises remain unfulfilled, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has noted: “The strike forced the Colombian government to negotiate an agreement to provide critical public services that would serve the entire community. Organizers agreed to suspend the strike in exchange for a list of demands that included safe drinking water and basic sanitation infrastructure, health care coverage for medical procedures and traditional medicine, access to quality public education, justice and reparations for victims of the conflict, and a community consultation process for land use planning.”

2021 National Strike

Nomadesc was also active during the National Strike in 2021 that also saw police violence against peaceful protests.

In March 2023, PBI-Colombia highlighted: “Almost two years after the 2021 National Strike, the high-ranking members of state security forces investigated for serious human rights violations committed during the repression of protests remain in total impunity. Of the 3,169 criminal acts reported, the Prosecutor General’s Office only attributed 65 cases to the state security forces, of which 11 were archived and, to date, there have been no convictions. Meanwhile, 230 young people are being prosecuted for leading the protest.”

The recommendations from the IACHR from their June 2021 working visit to Colombia can be read here.

Bahia Malaga

Earlier this year, on January 23, Nomadesc also tweeted: “#SOS We reject all violent actions and REQUEST @CorteIDH [Inter-American Court of Human Rights] to attend to the precautionary measures that are in process and we demand [Colombian president] @petrogustavo [and vice-president] @FranciaMarquezM to speak out and act immediately with REAL AND EFFECTIVE protection measures.”

Now, just prior to the visit to Colombia, the IACHR ordered precautionary measures for this community.

La Silla Vacia reports: “[The IACHR] ordered the Colombian State to take precautionary measures to safeguard the life and integrity of a group of inhabitants of the community council of the town of La Plata, Bahía Málaga, in Valle del Cauca. There is risk for 13 leaders. According to the IACHR, territorial authorities, human rights defenders, and leaders of this community are at risk due to the operations carried out there by armed organizations, and the actions of the State have been insufficient. Last January, they denounced the incursion of an unidentified group, indiscriminate shootings and threats of kidnappings, and since then the violence has intensified.”

The IACHR has ordered the State to: “Guarantee security conditions for these leaders to return to their territory after being displaced; Implement protective measures against future threats, intimidation, harassment, and other acts of violence; Agree on the measures to be taken with the affected communities; Inform the IACHR of the measures taken to protect this population.”

The IACHR media statement on the precautionary measures can be read here.

Celeita on extractive mega-projects

Berenice Celeita, the president of NOMADESC, commented in Rebelión a few weeks ago: “The situation of human rights and violence has escalated in the last year and a half and the conflict in the Pacific, from Panama to Ecuador, has the same structural causes that are centred on the fact that we are in the most biodiverse place per square centimetre of the earth, the conflicts are not just a group of madmen who went out to shoot each other, and who change their names every year, there is a historical structure that shares unity of command, unity of action and important interests.”

Photo: Celeita in Ottawa, October 2023.

Celeita also noted: “We have 14 mega-projects that are in operation, curiously in the same places where people have been removed from their territories, at this moment there is an open violation of individual and collective rights.”

Celeita further specifies that there are hundreds of concessions to mining companies, carbon credits, and the expansion of the port of Buenaventura that generates new processes of dispossession.

The PBI-Colombia Project has accompanied NOMADESC since 2011 and its president Berenice Celeita since 1999.

Published by Brent Patterson on