The mayor of Buenaventura, Colombia’s main port city and one of the poorest cities in the country, has been arrested on corruption charges.
The police and prosecution carried out the arrest after having discovered inconsistencies in the delivery of six contracts dating back to 2012. The contracts had been intended to address failures in the city’s educational system.
The prosecution discovered that in 2012 the mayor’s office produced a “study” indicating that over 48,000 children were not meeting educational standards in the city. Based on the falsified study, the Ministry of Education authorized the opening of 21,000 quotas for students.
The accusations being made towards the mayor comes at a time when far bigger issues are being faced in the city, labeled by The Economist as “Colombia’s Most Violent City.”
Dozens of dismembered bodies have washed up on the city’s shores or exhumed from clandestine graves in the last several years. Over 150 people have been reported as missing, and much of the city is without basic utilities including drinking water.
The New York Times earlier this year linked the violence to public works projects planned in poor neighborhoods.
The international non-profit Human Rights Watch created a report in March 2014 detailing the existence of so-called “chop houses” in which torture and dismemberment practices take place.
The report, titled “The Crisis in Buenaventura: Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Displacement in Colombia’s Main Pacific Port”, reports at length on the seemingly endless list of human rights violations, while also exposing a complete lack of authority or prosecution on the part of the local justice system.
According to the report, as of January of 2014, not a single case of more than 1,300 open investigations into forced displacements has ever prosecuted by the local justice authorities. These are the same authorities pressing to charge the mayor with corruption. The non-profit states that “impunity remains the norm for abuses against the Buenaventura population.”
“Justice authorities have also failed to successfully prosecute a single case of forced displacement in Buenaventura. Of the Attorney General’s Office’s more than 1,300 open investigations into cases of forced displacement committed over the past two decades in Buenaventura, none had led to a conviction as of January 2014” – January 2014 Human Rights Watch Report
Though the ongoing violence (attributable to current gang warfare over control of the strategic port) has been met with varying degrees of “response” by local and national authorities, the city remains in disarray.
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