The Afro-Colombian Human Rights Defenders Campaign is very concerned about the current issues threatening to dispossess the communities of four neighborhoods at Isla de la Paz, in the port-city of Buenaventura, Colombia that have been settled for more than ten years by Afro-Colombians forced to flee their lands in the river areas of Yurumangui, Naya, Cajambre and Raposo.
According to a report issued on July 2 that was signed by several community organizations from Buenaventura, members of the communities, including some children, were intimidated by representatives of a Colombian company named TOCAM. TOCAM has moved to take illegal ownership of a soccer field in the community, which is the only place of entertainment for youth and children in the neighborhood, in order to convert it into storage place for the company. During a community activity to restore the soccer playground that was dismantled on December 2012 by the company, a representative of TOCAM showed up with police and 10 men dressed in civilian outfits. The men threaten members of the community saying, “if (you) continued talking we are going to blow you up”.
This situation is part of a process of land alienation that communities in Buenaventura have been facing as consequence of the ratification in October 2011 of the Free Trade Agreement between United States and Colombia. Buenaventura,a port that moves 55% of the exports of the country, is the focus of an ambitious project of expansion of the port’s infrastructure that is having devastating impact on communities such la Isla de la Paz. This is one of many incidents that put at risk leaders, youth and even children in Buenaventura, when they act in defense of their territory. On February 23 of this year, Demetrio Lopez,the legal representative of the Community Council La Caucana, who had been monitoring the industrial port project Aguadulce, also related to the expansion of the port’s capacity, was murdered after receiving death threats due to his work. Another five neighborhoods will be displaced to develop a massive tourist project in the port affecting more than 3400 families.
Afro-Colombian Human Rights Defenders Campaign called the attention of the US Congress to closely monitor and evaluate the aggravated human rights situation in the port of Buenaventura and identify the impact that projects to suit the FTA are having on the communities. Unfortunately, while some attention has been paid to the repression and murder of unionist and human rights defenders in Colombia,very little attention is being generated to assess the human rights impact the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement for Afro-Colombians.
Afro-Colombian Human Rights Defenders Campaign join the urgent call made by the communities of Isla de la Paz to the Colombian national authorities to act immediately to ensure that the local administration effectively protect the communities and act diligently to resolve the conflict before it cost another life.
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