(Translated by Steve Cagan, a volunteer CSN Translator)
August 27, 2014
Juan Manuel Santos
President of the Republic
The Women of the Southwest demand respect and protection of life, our territory and the culture of the people of Buenaventura
Mister President Juan Manuel Santos, the organizations that have signed below, together today in the city of Buenaventura, accompanied by national and international organization that defend human rights, have met today in the 5th Encounter of Women for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights which is being conducted within the framework of the 21st anniversary of the approval of Law 70 on August 27, 1993. Seven hundred fifty (750) women from the southwest of Colombia listened to the pain that decades of social and armed conflict have caused in this region. We are witnesses to the family, social and organizational damage during these long years of violence. We have seen, astonished, how the forced inter-urban, inter-municipal and inter-departmental displacement, and even exile, have sharpened inequality and poverty to which the inhabitants of this bio-diverse and wealthy corner of our national territory are submitted on a daily basis.
We, the mothers and grandmothers of the victims, grow old seeing how our young people miserably die and disappear. This pain affects every family, our neighbors, our friends, our entire environment. Before our eyes, they shoot at our families, their mutilated corpses appear, families disintegrate. Our customs, our traditions and our culture are exterminated. For 21 years, the communities have been demanding without any success that Law 70 de carried out and that the chapters that have been indefinitely postponed be approved. We know that had these just demands been listened to in an opportune way, our uprooting would have been prevented and avoided.
For decades we have made our complaints to the investigative bodies of the Colombian state, about how while a few benefit from the wealth that is within the Colombian Pacific, the level of poverty in the communities increases, and how day by day all sorts of cruel, inhuman and degrading acts are carried out. Serious violations of human and political rights. Generations of men and women of this land have been torn away from it by force. The black, indigenous and mestizo population that inhabits the principal port of Colombia is tired of the war and of the cruel methods that are used the generate forced displacement. That is why we are meeting today around a ritual of protection of Mother Earth, of life and of culture. In consequence of this, we ask you to attend to our requirements and that you respond in a way that is frank and that is in agreement with the internal and international norms for the protection of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, which are our requirements.
While corruption prevails in all governmental entities, we are weighed down by our necessities in health, education, public services and basic sanitation. School dropouts now are not only caused by the lack of spaces for students; it is also because of the permanent forced recruitment of boys and girls within the educational institutions, and the threats to teachers, parents and pupils.
The structural causes of the conflict that is besetting this region, populated principally by black and indigenous communities, are hidden behind discourses that your government must correct. In the first instance, we reject the genocide, the barbarous practices, forced recruitment, violence based on gender: murders of women, sexual abuse of women and very young girls and in particular, the dismembering “have to do with a cultural practice that is unacceptable and incomprehensible,” as your own Defense Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, put it when we announced the increase in the number of troops in the port, a military strategy that has not managed to overcome the existing levels of violence and barbarity.
Meanwhile, we find a very high under-reporting of the atrocities that occur in the port, the violations of civil and political rights. Not only are their real dimensions not being recorded, but 90% remain in impunity. How are we therefore to win the challenge of peace? Without truth, without justice and without integral reparations, we will not win the guarantees that this will not be repeated. Murders of women and sexual violations against women of the Colombian Pacific are hidden behind figures that are far from reality. In Buenaventura the rights of the victims do not exist.
You and your government know the geostrategic importance that the Colombian Pacific region enjoys. You and your government know the abandonment and corruption that have governed the destinies of this municipality. You and your government know the degree of responsibility by action or omission of the authorities. You and your government take steps forward towards the Pacific Alliance, without assuming as a priority the defense of life, the supreme valkue of all democracies.
You open doors to international consortiums to propose the Buenaventura Master Plan 2014-1050, which takes care of the details of the infrastructure for the broadening of the port, and explains how they are going to channelize the rivers and mangroves. It details the construction of roads and tunnels, but it does not talk of the steps needed to overcome impunity and corruption. Nor does this Master Plan explain how the Colombian state is going to get up to date on the historic debt it has to the communities in the social and economic fields.
The women of southwestern Colombia, accompanied by our families and social organizations, participate every day in acts of peace, which unfortunately the government does not include in its agendas, and do not make up part of its public policy. We want to go on dreaming of an honest government, one that would look upon our territory with love and respect, one that would feel the pain that we feel because of the war that carries off our beloved beings. A government that would respect our lives, our territory and our culture, which would make possible the return of displaced families in order to carry out our life plans in harmony and equilibrium, where mothers could let our sons and daughters move freely through the villages, community, indigenous reservations and neighborhoods without fear of getting bad news. A government that would listen to call of the women for life and peace.
For the foregoing, Mister President Juan Manuel Santos, we women, meeting in Buenaventura, making use of Article 23 of our National Constitution and its attendant rules, ask you to inform us:
1. What results have been supplied by the investigations of the massacres of Katanga, Cisneros, Triana, Zabaleta, El Firme, Las Palmas, Zaragosa, Naya, Punta del Este and Lleras, which occurred between 1999 and 2005? How many cases has the government recorded of murder of women and sexual abuse in Buenaventura, and what have been the results of the investigations between 1999 and 2014? How many cases of persons forcibly disappeared were there, and what were the results of the investigations between 1999 and 2014? How many victims of dismembering have there been in the so-called “chop houses,” and from what year has this practice been known in the Port of Buenaventura?
2. Despite the fact that 21 years have passed since the approval of Law 70 of 1993, there are still a number of chapters for which the regulations have not been written, and those that have been approved have not been enforced. We ask, Mister President, that you explain: What are the reasons why the law has not been effective? When, and what methodological route is going to be employed to win approval of the chapters that do not yet have regulations? According to the Presidential Office of the republic, to what extent has enforcement of Law 70 of 1993, which recognizes the right of collective ownership of property and the protection of cultural identity, economic and social development and equal opportunities for the Black communities been applied?
3. What resources have been created to carry out the orders of the Constitutional Court through their decrees 004 and 005, which demand protection of the fundamental rights of the indigenous and Afro-descended populations respectively?
4. What been the steps taken to enforce Law 1257 which order, prevent and sanction the forms of violence and discrimination against women?
We request, Mister President, that you, together with us and other organizations that defend human rights, invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, to visit Colombian’s southwest region, and that in particular that it be she who verifies the situation of violence against women in Buenaventura.
As Colombian citizens and organizations that defend human rights, we have an ethical obligation to request that the rights that have been broken be reestablished. Therefor, Mr. President Juan Manuel Santos, receive this demand and request as a fraternal and urgent call from the women of the Colombian southwest, who are looking to make a contribution with proposals of integral, transforming, inclusionary and participatory peace for Colombia.
Mister President, we will await your rapid and opportune response, which we will receive in the headquarters of the Association NOMADESC, at Carrera 9, No. 4-53, Barrio San Antonio, Santiago de Cali, Valle de Cauca, and at the email asociaciondhnomadesc.2013@gmaiLcom.
Signed cordially and sincerely,
ASOCIACION PARA LA INVESTIGACION y ACCION SOCIAL NOMADESC
PALENQUE EL CONGAL – PCN
ALIANZA DE MUJERES DE BUENAVENTURA
COMITE POR LA DEFENSA DEL AGUA Y DE LA VIDA
PASTORAL AFROCOLOMBIANA – CEPAC/BUENAVENTURA
SERVICIO JESUITA A REFUGIADOS
ASOCIACION DE MUJERES CORTERAS DE CAÑA
ASOCIACION MUJERES DE TRIANA
MUJERES MINERAS ARTESANALES DE LA TOMA
ASOCIACION CAMPESINA ASOELENCANTO
MOVIMIENTO DE VICTIMAS DE CRIMEN ES DE ESTADO
MUJERES CAMPESINAS ASOAGROS CENTRO DEL VALLE – CNA
MUJERES DEL RESGUARDO INDIGENA YU’YISKWE
MUJERES INDIGENAS DEL CABILDO MAYOR DEL RIO PEPITAS
MUJERES INDIGENAS DEL RESGUARDO HONDURAS – CRIC
MUJERES INDIGENAS DEL RESGUARDO CERRO TIJERAS – ACIN
PROGRAMA DE MUJERES ACIN
MADRES POR LA VIDA BUENAVENTURA
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL PALO SECO
CORDINACIÓN REGIONAL DEL PACIFICO
MUJERES INDIGENAS NONAN
COMITE MARCHA PARA VIVIR EN DIGNIDAD
MUJERES CNA- HUILA
MUJERES RED PROYECTO SUR.
DH – COLOMBIA
COMITE DE MUJERES SINDICALISTA SINTRAUNICOL
COMITÉ DE MUJERES SINDICALISTAS SINTRAEMCALI
SENADO DE LA REPUBLlCA – COMISION PRIMERA
MINGA DE RESISTENCIA SOCIAL Y COMUNITARIA
CONGRESO DE LOS PUEBLOS
Permanent Mission for Life in the Port of Buenaventura
Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, President of the Constitutional Court
Jorge Armando Otalora, Defensor del Pueblo (Defenderof the People—am official human rights official)
Emilio Alvarez Icaza, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Todd Howland, Delegate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Peter Drury, Amnesty International
Gimena Sanchez, Principal Coordinator of the Andes program of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Jose Manuel Vivanco, Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch
Kathryn Janzen, Executive Director, CoDevelopment Canada
Patrick Kenne, War on Want Human Rights and Cooperation Organization
Claire Williams, Regional Convener, Northern Region, UNISON (England)