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Activist from Afro-Colombian Strike Demands Minister of the Interior “Stop Killing Black People”

In viral video, Isaías Cifuentes declares, “We are here reclaiming our dignity.”

Sarah Lazare

Isaías Cifuentes confronts Colombia’s Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Rivera Flórez. (PASO International)

Afro-Colom­bian com­mu­ni­ties in the city of Bue­naven­tu­ra just sus­pend­ed a weeks-long gen­er­al strike over their inhu­mane liv­ing con­di­tions, which have left them with­out access to ade­quate hos­pi­tals, schools, jobs or drink­ing water. 

Largely ignored in English-language media, the uprising has been met with violent repression by police.

Large­ly ignored in Eng­lish-lan­guage media, the upris­ing was met with vio­lent repres­sion by police. On Tues­day, the strike com­mit­tee announced it is tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend­ing the strike, on the con­di­tion that the gov­ern­ment com­plies with key agree­ments. How­ev­er, res­i­dents are a long ways from address­ing the social ills that plague this key port city.

Rav­aged by struc­tur­al racism and pover­ty, Bue­naven­tu­ra is emblem­at­ic of the human rights fail­ures of the U.S.- Colom­bia Free Trade Agree­ment, imple­ment­ed in 2006. The city expand­ed as a result of the deal, only to fun­nel res­i­dents into dan­ger­ous jobs, many in the infor­mal econ­o­my, where work­places are plagued with vio­lence in retal­i­a­tion for orga­niz­ing. Accord­ing to a report by U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives George Miller and Jim McGov­ern, deliv­ered to the Con­gres­sion­al Mon­i­tor­ing Group on Labor Rights in Colom­bia in 2013, Six­ty-three per­cent of Buenaventura’s res­i­dents who are Afro-Colom­bian live under the pover­ty line, and unem­ploy­ment is 64 percent.”

Bue­naven­tu­ra’s port is Colom­bi­a’s largest, and it is home to some of the worst work­ing con­di­tions in South Amer­i­ca, which have remained the same or wors­ened since the Free Trade Agree­ment went into effect,” Neil Mar­tin, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of PASO Inter­na­tion­al, an inter­na­tion­al accom­pa­ni­ment and sol­i­dar­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion, told In These Times.

In this video, social and polit­i­cal activist Isaías Cifuentes can be seen con­fronting Colombia’s Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or, Guiller­mo Rivera Flórez, over the bru­tal crack­down on pro­test­ers. We are here reclaim­ing our dig­ni­ty,” he said while the strike was still in effect. We want to live like cit­i­zens, like human beings! Is that not our right? Look at the arro­gance of the state and you who rep­re­sent it.”

I have been in the streets,” he con­tin­ued, wit­ness­ing how the peo­ple you com­mand are say­ing we have to kill these black people.’” 

The footage was tak­en from the Face­book account of major Colom­bian media out­let, La FM. The Eng­lish-lan­guage sub­ti­tles were writ­ten by PASO Inter­na­tion­al, which employs Cifuentes.

Isaías Cifuentes, Colom­bian activist, con­fronts Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or about vio­lent repres­sion of Bue­naven­tu­ra’s civ­il strike from PASO Inter­na­tion­al on Vimeo.

Sarah Lazare is web edi­tor at In These Times. She comes from a back­ground in inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism for pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing The Inter­cept, The Nation, and Tom Dis­patch. She tweets at @sarahlazare.

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