Bogotá, March 7, 2015
Starting at 5:00 a.m. on 7 March 2015, the National Police Riot Squad of Colombia (ESMAD) carried out a violent expulsion operation against the communities of Cantagallo, in southern Bolívar department, who have been peacefully demanding guarantees of their right to health. The communities report that ESMAD is breaking into homes, spraying tear gas, and violently ejecting the residents. There has been one death during this operation, that of OSCAR LUIS PEÑA REDONDA, as a result of the anguish and terror caused by the police action. Several residents have been arrested.
During the 18-day protest, the community has called for a dialogue with the competent authorities to deal with the serious health crisis facing the town, which has endangered the lives of approximately 7,000 residents needing medical treatment.
We hereby alert the domestic and international community that leaders and residents participating in the protests have been named and threatened by the authorities. Former and current public officials have been claiming that the guerrillas are behind the ongoing protests in the town. This increases the risk faced by the leaders of this region of the country, whom the government has declined to protect.
Yesterday in an urgent action, we called attention to the Colombian government’s lack of political will to address the grave problems affecting the communities of this region and denounced the government’s violent repression of freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest. The Dialogue Commission for Southern Bolívar and Central and Southern Cesar departments has denounced the government’s continual reneging on the agreements reached at the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and People’s Summit. There, the national government committed to reactivating and promoting the regional dialogue tables, but that has not happened in the case of these departments. According to information supplied by the National Police in the city of Bogotá, today’s expulsions were carried out under a court order, and this was allegedly the government’s excuse for failing to intervene.
Since February 18, 2014, the communities have been holding a peaceful protest in favor of the right to health, but the local, regional and national authorities have not stepped in to address and resolve the communities’ demands.
The community of Cantagallo has produced a damning portrait of its residents’ health status:
- Two years with no doctor in this rural area.
- Only one doctor in the whole town of 8000.
- Dilapidated, half-built, and abandoned health infrastructure.
- Lack of medical staff, including doctors and nurses, this situation being even worse in the rural areas.
- Loss of human life and/or deteriorating health status of many residents, for lack of medical attention.
- Fiscal deficit.
- Failure to meet the health-related goals of the Municipal Development Plan. (See table of programs, subprograms, and projects included in the Development Plan.
- Lopsided execution of the Development Plan, with bigger investment in some sectors to the detriment of investment in areas as vital as health care.
ASSOCIATION OF FARMING AND MINING FAMILIES OF SOUTHERN BOLÍVAR AND ANTIOQUIA (AFASBA)
SOUTHERN BOLIVAR AND SOUTHERN CESAR DIALOGUE COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF THE PEOPLES’ CONGRESS