Threats against Afro-Colombian Leaders from Buenaventura

Danelly Estupiñan, a powerful Afro-Colombian human rights activist and personal friend of mine, is now facing a mortal threat from the fanatical criminals aligned with powerful economic interests who are committed to keeping Black people subjugated in the port city of Buenaventura and throughout Colombia.

An activist and member of the Black Communities Process (PCN), Danelly joins a long list of woman, labor and youth activists who are facing death or have been murdered for daring to organize Afro-Colombians to defend their dignity.

At 5:30pm on November 23, Danelly received a death threat stating “Danelly you are close to the end.” Less than five hours later, she received a call from a friend where a distorted voice was interposed that stated “we know where you are, we know where you are.” These threats follow a November 22 visit by the community human rights ombudsman, UNHCR and PCN Congal members to the Inmaculada neighborhood. The visit was prompted by the November 19 threats against community leader Rocio del Pilar Segura. Neighbors informed Ms. Segura that personnel from the TCBUEN posted a sign outside her house without her consent. Ms. Segura moved the sign and on November 20 personnel from TCBUEN arrived at her door and told her daughter “that they will make Rocio pay for the sign.”

The Black Communities Process (PCN) Buenaventura office, Palenque el Congal, works to defend the rights and dignity of Afrodescendant communities located in the Bajamar area of Buenaventura’s Cascajal Island for decades. Afrodescendants living in this area, many of whom are the displaced and their children, who fled conflict and abuse in nearby river communities are living in sub-human conditions due to the abandonment of the State. Not only have they had to confront extreme marginalization, poverty, lack of basic services, and had little access to employment opportunities, but they have also become the targets of the armed groups. For years, these residents have suffered brutal homicides that involve torture and dismemberment, disappearances, and displacements. PCN has accompanied and advocated for a stop to these abuses and justice for the victims.

I know this community; have walked its street and broken bread with its inhabitants. The government wants this community to be gone because it wants to build a beautiful new boardwalk in the city that it hopes will attract more tourist dollars. The only problem is that the expansion requires the displacement the people living on that valuable land. Danelly and PCN’s Palenque el Congal represent the organized resistance to those plans and as a result have become the target of the paramilitary groups who protect and enforce the interests of the Colombian elite.

These threats are taking place at a time when more than 143 death threats against activists were reported in the region. On November 9, paramilitaries killed Afro-Colombian youth activist Jhon Jairo Ramirez Olaya in Buenaventura. They also coincide with numerous leaders of the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA), of which PCN forms part, receiving threats and being intimidated for their work promoting justice, peace and human rights.

We must stand with the people of Colombia. We must make sure that Black lives matter in Buenaventura and that our dear sister is protected. For more information and how you can help, go to http://afrocolombian.org/2015/11/25/the-lives-of-afro-colombian-leaders-from-buenaventura-must-be-protected/