For Our Life Space and Humanitarian Space

(Translated by David Van Den Brandt, a CSN Volunteer Translator)

Source: CIJP

For our Dignified Life, in the present and future, our Life Space, and Humanitarian Space…
Buenaventura, Colombia
April 14, 2014

Witnessing the barbarity of the assassination of members of our community on the part of paramilitaries since November of last year until today, and living everyday with terror, we, the 800 families that live in 500 homes in the area of Puente Nayero, in the La Playita neighborhood, have declared the territory in which we live a Space of Life, a Humanitarian Space and a Humanitarian Zone of Protection (Espacio de Vida, Espacio Humanitario, y Zona Humanitaria de protección).

Beginning today, we are creating this constitution of a humanitarian space as a mechanism of self-protection for our physical lives, for our cultural existence—to avoid loosing our territory—and for our new generations, present and future.

We don’t want our street to continue to be used for the assassination of our people, because we don’t want our kids to be involved in paramilitary violence, because we don’t want our daughters to be used by the paramilitaries as sexual objects, because we don’t want, due to a lack of alternatives, our kids and young men and women to serve as puppets in a machinery of death.

We make this decision as the possible and real alternative amidst the reign of terror of those in power that deny joy and amidst the economic interests that want to diminish our quality of life here in the black communities of Buenaventura.

We establish today this initiative of our Humanitarian Space (Espacio Humanitario) listening to our African ancestors, to our assassinated and disappeared relatives, listening to Mother Earth, with whom we’ve lived and constructed a special relationship over 25 years here in Buenaventura.

From this Espacio de Vida, we invite the Colombian State and the private sector to listen to our environmental proposals that detail the protection of animals, the sources of life, and ecotourism plans that respect our usage and customs and that would make possible living wages for our families and those of all Colombians.

From this Espacio de Vida, we hope that the Colombian State, facing the historical debt of comprehensive reparation owed to Afro-Colombians, can accept this right—a right that is an ethic obligation for our people.

We have made this decision because we want to face the fear and the terror that violence has caused us. We request that the Colombian State respects our autonomous decision of self-protection, which we made after having understood the diverse experiences of our organized population in the defense of Life and the Territory.

We request from the Colombian State the permanent presence of the National Police around our perimeter. Furthermore, we request the presence of the Pacific Naval Force in the river area of our territory. Finally, we request permanent lighting near the areas through which paramilitaries access our street.

We have demolished today one of the Casas de Pique (Houses where paramilitaries brutally execute people) in which they tore people into pieces in front of women and children. In its place, we have created a space of memory and joy in hope.

We have demanded the retirement of the paramilitaries that occupy our Sacred Street, fearing, of course, their retaliation.

As members of Communities Constructing Peace in the Territories (Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios), CONPAZ, we construct proposals for environmental and social justice with an inclusive democracy; we invite national and international solidarity to join us so that our proposal for Life is respected.

We thank the other communities that make up CONPAZ, the Commission for Justice and Peace (la Comisión de Justicia y Paz), the Perpetual Parish for Aid (Parroquia Perpetuo Socorro) and the Diocese of Buenaventura, Witness for Peace, International Peace Brigades (Brigadas Internacionales de Paz), Wola, Asokatio, Mundubat, Christian Aid, Iepala, Hernani, Citizen Power (Poder Ciudadano), the Network of Alternatives (la Red de Alternativas), News One (Noticias Uno), Contagio Multimedia, Telesur, Yubarta TV, and the McGovern Representatives.

We thank the General Inspection of the Police (Inspección General de la Policía) for its willingness to carry out its institutional responsibilities and to respect our initiatives for the protection of our perimeter.

We lament that before beginning our Constitución de Espacio de Vida, paramilitaries learned about our initiative and have put into question our autonomy and have ordered the police to inform them that in our street, United States citizens were going to come to live, along with human rights organizations.

This is a deeply serious situation that reiterates our worries. To add to our worries, last night, less than 50 meters away, Carlos Andrés Angarita was assassinated. His body was dismembered by paramilitaries. He was 16 years old.

We count on all of you; do not leave us alone amid this decision to face our fears and fight for a different Buenaventura for our heirs, a Buenaventura of peace and justice.

The members of the families of Puente Nayero endorse this document in which we take on a commitment to peace, to not remain quiet in the face of violence, to not take part in armed operations, to protect our life and every single one of the members of our black community.

The Residents of Puente Nayero, La Playita neighborhood, April 13, 2014

(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)

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