Residents of Buenaventura, Colombia’s biggest port city, plan to protest against the extreme violence that has taken over the Pacific area despite recent government attempts to control the issue, local media reported on Tuesday.
Led by business owners of the city, the protests planned for March 12 will consist of the closure of all commercial establishments in a bid to show the country — and the world — conditions of violence and marginalization that has gripped the important pacific port since 2012, El Pais newspaper reported.
Since 2012 neo-paramilitary groups — also known as the BaCrim — have instilled themselves in the city of 300,000 people fighting a violent war over the port’s strategic location and infrastructure, which sees the departure of 50% of Colombia’s total exports.
The violence stemming form this tussle between powerful drug-trafficking organizations such as the “Urabeños” and “Rastrojos” has resulted in hundreds of assassinations and thousands displaced residents — prompting a visit from the UN Human Rights Commissioner Todd Howland in November 2013 who labeled the situation a Humanitarian Crisis.
The leaders insist that the citywide protests could paralyze the entire city as public transport workers, fishing associations, the church, students, and other sectors of society confirmed their participation.
Throughout the day protesters plan to mobilize onto the plaza of City Hall where they will present their demands to the national and local governments.
“We should all go out to participate, so Colombia and the world realize the plight of the port,” Bishop Hector Epalza told El Pais.
On March 8 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who had recently traveled Buenaventura, ordered the reinforcement of local authorities with 380 policemen and 400 additional Marines.
“There are a few elite units to go after criminal members of these gangs who are killing each other and also causing great harm to this population,” Santos stated after a meeting with Buenaventura social leaders and city officials.
Even with these additional security measures by the national government, the community expects more than 20,000 people will turnout in support of the protests, El Espectador newspaper reported.
- Buenaventura se prepara para movilizarse en contra de la violencia (El Espectador)
- Buenaventura se unira para rechazar violencia en masivo planton este miercoles (El Pais)
- He dado la orden para que intervención de la Fuerza Pública en Buenaventura sea indefinida: Presidente Santos (Presidential Office Press Release)