Buenaventura crisis could undermine US military aid to Colombia: Human Rights Watch

Posted on Apr 16 2014 - 9:18am by Today News
Jose Miguel Vivanco

Human Rights Watch (HRW) held a special briefing for US congress members on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Colombian port city of Buenaventura.

“According to the law, 25% of the military aid that Colombia receives from the United States could be cut, if the Colombian government does not protect the human rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous citizens.”

The international human rights NGO recently released a report describing the daily violence that plagues the Pacific port of Buenaventura, which HRW refers to as “one of the most violent places in Colombia.”

HRW’s Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco and report author Max Schoening, presented the findings of the report to US congress members.

The report, titled, “The Crisis in Buenaventura: Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Displacement in Colombia’s Main Pacific Port,” documents the atrocities committed by neo-paramilitary criminal groups in the city, “including abducting and dismembering their victims, sometimes while they’re still alive.”

MORE: Latest dismembered body takes count in Buenaventura to 9: Colombia govt

Aid and human rights

In an interview with the national newscast, Noticias Caracol, Vivanco said HRW had asked congress members to ensure that US aid to Colombia is dependent on the Colombian government’s protection of human rights for the citizens of Buenaventura.

According to Vivanco, “If these communities are suffering…having their right’s violated without the protection of the state, with total impunity…then this is a topic that affects the security cooperation between Washington and Bogota.”

Daniel Pacheco, Noticias Carcacol’s Washington correspondent, stated, “According to the law, 25% of the military aid that Colombia receives from the United States could be cut, if the Colombian government does not protect the human rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous citizens.”

According to the report, the violence has displaced more than 19,000 people from their homes last year, more than any other municipality in Colombia.

MORE: More troops to control violence in western Colombia port city

 

Buenaventura’s poorer neighborhoods, inhabited by the city’s majority Afro-Colombian population, are disproportionately affected by the violence.

MORE: UN urges Colombia to attend security crisis in Pacific port city

There have been dozens of murders, eight disappearances and hundreds displaced in the city, according to Colombia’s highest governmental human rights office.

In a report in late March, Colombia’s Ombudsman, Jorge Armando Otalora, said that since January 1, there have been 87 homicides, eight people had disappeared and 1086 people had been displaced.

Criminal connection

Buenaventura has been the stage of an increasingly aggressive turf war between criminal gangs fighting for control of illegal drug trafficking routes.

“Los Urabeños” and “La Empresa,” are the two criminal organizations that funnel drugs into the Buenaventura and up the Pacific coast towards Central America, and have terrorized the city over the last few years.

Los Urabeños and La Empresa are gangs that formed from the remnants of the paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia following its demobilization in 2006. La Empresa is an offshoot of another of these gangs, Los Rostrojos. Competition between these two gangs for trafficking corridors in and out of this key Colombian port have caused a spike in city violence since 2011. Last year and the first months of 2014 were particularly brutal, including dozens of cases of torture and dismemberment.

Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca

Sources

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