The Washington Office on Latin America visited Chocó in March 2012. Alarmed by the severity of grave human rights situation in Chocó, we support the following statement issued by Diocese of Quibdó. We also encourage the U.S. government to promptly act in order to guarantee human rights and territorial rights for Chocó’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples and to promote efforts that dismantle the military, political and economic operations of illegal armed groups in the Chocó.
Diocese of Quibdó
Death and Impunity Increase in Chocó
The Diocese of Quibdó publicly expresses its indignation about so much death, injustice, and impunity against the children of God in this part of the territory of Colombia’s Pacific region at the beginning of this Lenten season.
There is a concerning and painful increase in selective and indiscriminate assassinations; threats; blockades; confinements; and attacks continue against the civilian population in urban and rural areas. These trends continue despite the strengthening of the public forces and increase in official rhetoric that denies and hides the systematic increase of social and political violence against the communities.
One year after the Bishops of the Pacific Region’s Pastoral Letter and many years after the Rulings by Constitutional Court and United Nations recommendations regarding the violation of the fundamental and collective rights of black, indigenous, and mestizo communities included in our ecclesiastic jurisdiction, reality tends to worsen by means of:
- Confinement and the risk of displacement caused by landmines in transportation routes and traditional places used for hunting, farming and fishing; threats; armed blockades on roads; the presence of armed actors among and around populations; the restrictions and limitations on the entry of foodstuffs; constant assassinations, including of children; the prohibition of freedom of movement in these territories; and the general absence of guarantees for the protection of the right to life and territories.
- The increased urban violence that primarily affects young people from forcibly displaced families with high degrees of vulnerability.
- The inclusion of children and young people in the dynamics of the war, in addition to the drug trafficking industry, which is worsened by the abuse and sexual exploitation of minors.
- The coexistence of the Public Forces with the other armed actors has increased the wave of violence affecting the region as the government is strengthening the Public Forces in the region. The Public Forces have even affirmed that they cannot enter certain neighborhoods or sectors because they fear for their lives, thereby condemning the civilian population to a lack of protection and total state abandonment.
- The degree of ungovernability and impunity of the Public Ministry’s actions and omissions in the absence of respect for previous control mechanisms and protection guarantees for the rights of communities and their organizations. This is consolidated by the ineffectiveness of the regional institutions and the national Public Ministry establishment.
- The increase in the trafficking and consumption of psychotropic substances which are distributed and sold in broad day light where those responsible are not identified or prosecuted
- The social chaos and lack of control on the city’s roads and even transport terminal where all kinds of war and drug trafficking supplies are said to flow.
- The strengthening of the mafias that control a large part of both the public and private institutions and public financing. Much of which is not invested in the common good. This perpetuates the chaos created by the marriage between political power and the management of the economy that enriches a small number of families in the region and benefits many outsiders at the expense of the impoverishment and death of the communities.
- Industrial mining and other economic projects that displace and violate ethnic territorial rights, including the right to previous consultation, poisoning and gravely affecting communities’ rivers, economies, tranquility and rights.
Lastly, we are concerned by the lack of solidarity and indifference to this difficult reality. This contributes to the communities’ social decay and the debilitation of the communities’ cultural and traditional values.
We call on the community and its organizations to continue acting against this situation of violence, injustice, and impunity in order to maintain their traditions and values. We call on them to continue resisting in the territories and defending it as a precious gift given by God, the father and mother of creation. In this same sense, we call on all of our Christian brothers to pronounce themselves in solidarity with the victims of violence, the communities, and their organizational processes.
We demand that the authorities fulfill their constitutional duties and obligations to defend life, dignity, cultures, honor, and the property of the civilian population, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized by society like the indigenous, black, and mestizo communities that have ancestrally inhabited these territories since time memorial.
Quibdó, March 8, 2012