In a letter to Paula Gaviria, Colombia’s Presidential Advisor on Human Rights, members of Congress called on the Colombian government to ensure that the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities are able to exercise their right to peaceful protest. The letter led by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), comes following days of non-violent protest in Colombia’s Pacific coast that were answered to with excessive use of force by Colombia’s anti-riot police.
The letter highlights the demands made by demonstrators in the Department of Choco and the port city of Buenaventura, such as access to clean drinking water, better infrastructure, improved healthcare, and increased protection against illegal armed groups, and it stresses the importance that “the Colombian government must ensure that the people of the Pacific region are able to hold peaceful protests freely and without fear of retaliation or repression.”
Members of Congress additionally acknowledged the agreements signed to reach an end to the strikes, but called on the Colombian government to promulgate a decree “to make the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Accord legally enforceable.” By doing so, members of Congress believe it will guarantee effective implementation of the peace accords in the Pacific coast and will also address the social and security problems faced in the Pacific coast.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) supports this letter and believes that it is critical for the United States Congress to continue monitoring the situation and press the Colombian government to meet the commitments it made in the agreements that ended the strikes.
The letter was signed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr (D-NJ), Rep. Henry Johnson Jr (D-GA), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).