Buenaventura: Displacement for a Competitive Economy

The Association for Social Research and Action (Nomadesc) has defended human rights in the port city of Buenaventura since 1999, when the Pacific and Farallones fronts of the Calima Block of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group began staging incursions in the area, leaving a trail of crime, theft, displacement and forced disappearance in their wake, all the way from Cali to Buenaventura.

After Nomadesc began accompanying the processes of afro-colombian communities andin time they saw the need for collaboration with other organisations. Nomadesc now works with a dozen organisations from the Inter-Organisational Committee for the Defence of Rights of the Communities who live the Territories Reclaimed from the Sea in Buenaventura and started an integrated research initiative to show how the current port expansion and infrastructure development are linked to the human rights violations in the city and how constitutional and ethno-territorial rights are being infringed.

The report by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission Buenaventura: Displacement for a Competite Economy explains how the living conditions in Buenaventura have deteriorated as a consequence of the economic growth, modernisation and expansion through the development of the port. This has led to restrictions on the population an increase in violence, social disintegration, the gradual disappearance of customs, and a disruption to local production and the traditional means of subsistence linked to the sea. The constant anxiety of not knowing where the affected population may be resettled or how they will survive economicallyis just one of many examples.[1]


Despite this situation, the resistance strategies used by the population to defend their territory have been admirable. One of these was a football tournament ‘Our territory is in play’, an initiative from the Inter-Organisational Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Communities who live in the Territories Reclaimed from the Sea, which aimed to recover spaces taken from them by violence and mega-development in the area, and to find alternatives to the history of discrimination and violence that the people of the Colombian Pacific regions have faced.[2] This day also became a highly symbolic event, because it was held in remembrance of the eleven young Afro-Colombian men from Punta del Este neighbourhood who, in 2005, were tortured and murdered after being lured with a football match.[3]

“It’s been a day full of colour and lots of joy, we’re talking about an area where there’s a lot violence and public spaces are hardly used. Through sports we want citizens to reclaim what is theirs, because it was taken from them”,[4] comments Berenice Celeita (Nomadesc)

Another initiative by the Inter-Organisational Committee was the Public Hearing about the victims of development and the unconstitutional state of affairs, held on 28 July 2016 in Buenaventura, which was attended by more than 700 delegates from the local, social, community, human rights, trade union, indigenous, afro and student organisations from the city, political figures and United Nations representatives, amongst others. In all, 98 people gave testimony and all of them agreed: “the large infrastructure projects in the port city were implemented without consultation, violating national and international human rights law”.[5] The Government responded to the evidence, demands and alternatives put forward by the communities by committing itself to following the situation.


[1] CIJP and MUNDUBAD: Buenaventura: El despojo para la competitividad, May 2015, p. 35
[2] El Tiempo: Sello inglés para un gol contra la violencia en Buenaventura, 18th July 2016; Nomadesc: Torneo de fútbol “Nos la jugamos por el territorio”, 15th July 2016
[3] Las 2Orillas: De la masacre de Punta del Este en Buenaventura, 28th April 2014
[4] El Tiempo: Ibíd.
[5] NOMADESC: Audiencia Pública Víctimas del desarrollo y estado de las cosas inconstitucionales en Buenaventura, 29th July 2016

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