A general strike and daily protests in Colombia's main Pacific coastal city Buenaventura, to denounce state neglect and corruption, has now entered its third week as of Monday, May 29. A nightly curfew from 18:00 and 06:00 (local time) remains in place. Local residents and religious leaders have complained about unprovoked police brutality by riot police forces during protests. Reports of police firing tear gas directly at protesters and inside homes have led to more than 100 complaints being filed at the Inspector General's Office. Further violence is likely amid the ongoing Paro Civico ("Civic Strike"), with some fearing an outright revolt. The city's ports, as well as commercial, banking, and tourist sectors, are at a standstill. Local authorities indicated that more than 90,000 million pesos have been lost as a result of the protest movement. Export-based economic sectors are also particularly affected. The import of food and other staple goods has been allowed to continue using minimum services.
In Chocó, an agreement with the Santos administration was reached on Saturday, May 27, leading to an immediate halt of the protest movement in the department over the weekend. The government pledged to build hospitals, improve local infrastructure networks, recognize the disputed gold-rich municipality of Belén de Bajirá as part of Chocó department (it was also claimed by neighboring Antioquia department), and increase investment in the region.
It does not appear that any such agreement with the Buenaventura protesters is imminent.
Buenaventura suffers from poor socioeconomic conditions and social services, compounded by a lack of decent health care and education, inequality, and poverty. Additionally, crime rates are relatively high due to the presence of gangs involved in drug trafficking. Almost half the city has no access to drinking water, while 62 percent of its residents are jobless. Infant mortality and malnutrition are particularly high. Corruption is endemic and considered exceptionally high for even Colombian standards (the city's three past mayors are in prison for embezzling public funds and the current mayor is under investigation).
Due to these various issues, protesters in Buenaventura are demanding that the national government declare a state of social, security, and environmental emergency in the area and deliver improved social services.
Individuals present in Buenaventura are advised to avoid all demonstrations, to monitor developments to the situation, and to consider postponing nonessential travel to the city.
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