NUT send letter to President Santos condemning violent repression of civic strike

Justice For Colombia News | on: Monday, 5 June 2017

(carta en español a la derecha)

Dear Ambassador Osorio,

On behalf of the NUT's 350,000 members in the UK, I am writing to you and to President Santos to express my deep concern at the violent response of your government to the ongoing Civic Strike to Live with Dignity in the city of Buenaventura, and to urge your government to heed the demands of the population of Buenaventura. According to reports from human rights organisations, the peaceful protest was interrupted by a huge operation by land, air and sea, involving police, army and navy units, with indiscriminate use of tear gas, live firearms and rubber bullets against protestors, provoking violent disturbances in the city.

Human rights monitors report that numerous people were injured as a result of this operation, including women and children, and indicate concerns over irregularities in many of the approximately 200 arrests which took place. Many passed two nights handcuffed in a truck, forced to stand up throughout the night.

I also express UNISON's support for the just demands of the strike organisers, which are surely the very minimum required for a dignified existence: access to water, acute healthcare, decent education, dignified employment, a clean and safe environment, and an end to the ongoing paramilitary violence. Representatives of our union have visited Buenaventura on several occasions in recent years on official delegations, and report being shocked by the levels of poverty, violence and deprivation, particularly given the wealth that is generated from the exports and imports which pass through the city's port.

In the strongest terms possible I urge the government of Colombia to:

  • Respect the right to protest and refrain from any further violence towards participants in the civic strike;
  • Fully investigate and take appropriate legal and disciplinary action against agents of the state accused of abuses during the course of the strike;
  • Guarantee the safety of members of the strike organising committees and their families during and after the civic strike;
  • Act quickly to implement the just demands of the participants in the civic strike.

I look forward to receiving a positive response in relation to these developments.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Courtney

General Secretary

cc Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

cc Mariela Kohon, Director, Justice for Colombia

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