Colombia: Pacific coast strike ends in victory

After an all-night negotiating session with protest leaders in Colombia's Pacific port of Buenaventura June 5, government representatives pledged to invest $517 million in local infrastructure in return for a lifting of the civic strike that has rocked the region for weeks. Despite a curfew, confrontations had continued in the port city between residents and the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD. On the night of May 31, clashes with ESMAD troops again filled the streets with tear-gas. Protesters continued to call on President Juan Manuel Santos to follow through on his promises of new schools, housing, hospitals and potable water for the long-neglected Pacific coast region. The strike primarilly impacted the adjacent departments of Valle del Cauca, where Buenaventura is located, and Chocó to the north. (TeleSur, Colombia Reports, June 6; El Espectador, May 31)

Unrelenting paramilitary terror
The ongoing wave of assassination of social leaders in Colombia has particularly affected the Pacific region. May 31 saw the slaying of a local youth named Duberney Gómez at the community of La Nevera in Curvaradó zone of Chocó. Gómez, shot by gunmen on motorbikes, was almost certainy targeted because he was the son of Rafael Taquero, a campesino leader involved in the struggle to reclaim usurped lands in the zone. (Contagio Radio, June 1) 

The region is also gripped by a "social cleansing" campaign by presumed right-wing paramilitaries targeting LGBT youth. May 26 saw the slaying of Carlos Augusto Paneso, a prominent gay leader with the Fundación Colombiano Arco Iris (Colombian Rainbow Foundation) in Tumaco, Nariño department. On May 18, Alex Aguiño, a gay youth in the outlying Tumaco district of Piñal Salado, was found impaled to death. According to the Rainbow Foundation, at least 12 LGBT persons have been assassinated in Tumaco since 2011, with nobody brought to justice for the crimes. (El Espectador, May 26)