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The heirs of slavery in Buenaventura

Thursday 20 March 2014

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The stench of blood, like the screams of those being cut to pieces, permeates the wooden walls that separate the homes in the Bajamar neighborhoods. On these walls is the evidence of a particularly violent day, disappearing bit by bit with the dust. But forgetting is killed, and the no-names, those that were murdered or disappeared, are recalled in marches and demonstrations. People are fed up with terror and fear.

The stench of blood, like the screams of those being cut to pieces, permeates the wooden walls that separate the homes in the Bajamar neighborhoods. On these walls is the evidence of a particularly violent day, disappearing bit by bit with the dust. But forgetting is killed, and the no-names, those that were murdered or disappeared, are recalled in marches and demonstrations. People are fed up with terror and fear.

In Buenaventura, a development model is not projected but rather imposed with propaganda and death. There, necks and feet are no longer chained with metal, but violence, terror and control of every street and every movement by Afro-Colombian youth caught in paramilitarism are the chains in a new slavery imposed by global market demands that seek to control territory.

Walking through Buenaventura’s neighborhoods of El Lleras, San José (Sanyu), La Playita, Viento Libre, Muro Yusti, Campo Alegre, Santa Mónica, Morrocoy, Arenal, Piedras Cantas, Alfronso López, Palo Seco, El Capricho and La Palera, is to confront images of the African slave trade to the Americas in so-called modern times. Looking out over the sea is to contrast the carrion birds that can be seen for miles around with the pelicans that live off the natural life cycle of fish, mirroring the cycle of human bodies converted to merchandise or to vice, as imposed by paramilitary law.
Afro-Colombian girls as young as 12 or 14 are sexually initiated by paramilitaries, and bit by bit African rhythms express purely sexual movements that are internalized by the youngest girls no older than five years in imitation of their older sisters. After the paramilitaries are satisfied, the girls are tossed aside or drawn into the paramilitary-run world of sex trafficking. If they refuse, the girls may be assassinated as part of a strategy of social control.

It’s the same with extortion taxes. Among the murdered are various women for not paying the paramilitaries. The taxes may be as little as two dollars, but many simply cannot pay. They do not always earn what they hope, but this paramilitaries do not excuse. In Buenaventura even those who sell cups of coffee on the street or lunches at the marketplace pay; if not, they cannot work, much less survive.

Walking through the Bajamar neighborhoods so close to nine different rivers shows that violence and exclusion is the law. Water is a right denied. Buenaventura’s Afro-descendant population is surrounded by water, to bathe, to fish, but they do not have potable water, nor trash collection or sanitation services.

“This is how Buenaventura is drowing, its misery negated with the image of progress, an imaginary world that, bit by bit, global capital is slowly making a reality, a world that hides what stinks: poor blood, black blood, black life, modern slavery.”

Eighty percent of residents live in poverty and 63% are unemployed. Any income becomes necessary in order to survive, including those who opt to live from torturing and cutting up other human beings. Over 50% of Colombia’s commerce passes through Buenaventura, which will increase with the Pacific Alliance. According to reports in the press, Buenaventura contributes $4 billion in revenue and receives about $150 million of that back from the National Shareholders System, the entity in charge of social investment and planning.

All of the above situations are marinated in traditional corruption, including the construction of new buildings that have brought Buenaventura much praise as a prime example of tourism and a strong economy—an economy in which the poor are hidden and denied participation and the residents of Bajamar receive only the trash of those who rest and enjoy the view from the high-rises above them.

These are the same projects that local and national governments show in videos selectively highlighting Buenaventura’s progress to Colombians and foreigners alike. It’s one more reason why a recent convention was held in a large convention center in Cartagena, where poverty is more easily hidden and officials can clean their consciences and continue believing that they are doing their best—Cartagena, not Buenaventura, where poverty is not yet invisible.

Life reeks of death like violence reeks of barbarism, like the trash piling up under wooden stilt houses that continue to stand the test of time.

Buenaventura is one of the most militarized cities in Colombia with one of the highest police presence. However, this protection is not for residents, but rather for commerce.

In Pueblo Nuevo, people are killed less than 40 meters from a naval station, said a community leader from San Jose. Just a few weeks ago when civilians sought help from the military to prevent the paramilitaries from killing a neighbor, the officers told them that “we can’t do anything, our job is to protect wealth.”

It’s clear that neither the police nor the military provides security or trust for residents. President Santos’ recent announcement of more boots on the ground to provide security was received with skepticism. One resident expressed that the police don’t do anything since they refuse to enter the back streets where the paramilitaries keep their guard, weapons and torture centers. Police instead patrol the perimeters of these neighborhoods as part of a pact, sometimes implicit, other times explicit.
People go to report paramilitaries and where they operate, and when they return to the neighborhood the paramilitaries already know who denounced them. Other times they see police chatting with members of La Empresa or Los Rastrojos. It seems clear that the supposed confrontation between Los Urabeños and the Gaitanistas doesn’t exist—these groups no longer operate in Buenaventura.

Paramilitaries are entrenched in daily life and are the law and real power in the Bajamar neighborhoods. Residents know who they are, can identify them and very occasionally talk to them; they are there in homes abandoned by neighbors who couldn’t take any more. These same homes have become their headquarters, spaces from which they control the comings-and-goings of residents, and spaces to torture. These are the same houses used to cut bodies into pieces. Desperation is such that some of these human body parts are being sold as beef. Not long ago in San Jose, a poor merchant arrived with a freezer bag of meat to sell there in Bajamar. One resident observed that the meat’s color was different from that of beef, but others had already purchased and consumed some as others discovered a human nipple. Since that day, many residents have refused to eat meat. Such is the cruelty of daily life.

Everyone hears but no one can speak. The sound of cold steel and machetes dismembering their victims escapes wooden walls, and everyone hears the screams and pleas, but no one can do anything—anyone who speaks out and their families run the risk of the same fate.

The rituals are internalized. Paramilitary youth take their victim from one neighborhood to another on foot. There are always two that walk in silence in their expensive sneakers, looking ahead, and in between them the one who is going to be killed, carried along without much force, without restraints, through street after street until they arrive at one of the houses and begin to torture to the death. One recent victim, who managed to survive the machetes and who didn’t drown in the ocean, was recovered by one of his victimizers, who attached a rock so that “he would stop messing around and just drown.” In other cases, emblematic of paramilitary violence in Colombia, victimizers have opened their victims’ entrails and stuffed them with rocks so they sink.

This necrophiliac culture has a center, off in the distance, which no one dares to approach save the merchants of “progress.” It’s now called Skull Island, in the past known as Margarita Island. Hundreds of vultures circle every time paramilitaries dispose another lifeless body of one of their victims there, and it is also the cemetery of the forcibly disappeared. Progress is projected: there are plans to transform the island to host transportation operations of a multinational coal company.

This is how Buenaventura is drowing, its misery negated with the image of progress, an imaginary world that, bit by bit, global capital is slowly making a reality, a world that hides what stinks: poor blood, black blood, black life, modern slavery.

Traducido por : http://circlescounterclockwise.wordpress.com/

http://circlescounterclockwise.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/the-heirs-of-slavery-in-buenaventura/

 
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