Days-long protests in Colombia’s largest port city, Buenaventura, turned violent on Friday when police opened fire at protesters and locals went on a looting rampage.
In spite of hosting the country’s largest port, Buenaventura has long suffered extreme poverty due to rampant corruption and state neglect. In spite of being a city of 400,000, half of Buenaventura’s residents have no access to drinking water.
Earlier in the week, the city’s inhabitants had enough and massively joined a civic strike that had been called in the neighboring Choco province.
— Eder Gongora Gomez (@EDER_MTI) May 18, 2017
After talks with the national government broke down on Friday, the protests that had been peaceful for days turned violent.
According to locals, Colombia’s feared anti-riot unit ESMAD began opening fire at protesters without visible provocation, sparking a violent response from the locals.
Cops are using brutal force against black and indigenous protestors in Buenaventura. Juan Manuel Santos – Presidente, is this how you win a Nobel Prize? #ParoCivicoBuenaventura
Geplaatst door Stand for Land Rights in Colombia op vrijdag 19 mei 2017
As the sun went down, the situation escalated further, leaving an unknown number of protesters injured, including children, reported newspaper El Espectador.
— TraficoCali (@TraficoCali) May 20, 2017
After the sun had gone down, riots broke out across the city of 400,000 and dozens began looting locals shops.
More clashes between police and civilians were reported while others begged the international community for help.
— Eder Gongora Gomez (@EDER_MTI) May 20, 2017
Authorities reported the arrest of 41 people on charges of looting. Locals, however, posted videos of policemen allegedly taking part in the looting.
Locals reported that one 4-month old baby had died after inhaling teargas, but this was not confirmed by official sources or news media.
Police said that one officer had been shot dead and another 10 had been injured in the violence.
— Poder Ciudadano (@PoderCiudadanos) May 20, 2017
On Saturday, tens of thousands returned to the streets, defying the government decree not to engage in protest.
— Diana Sánchez (@DianaDefensora) May 20, 2017
Governor Dilian Francisca Toro called on both the national authorities and protest leaders to resume talks and refrain from violence.
— Dilian Francisca T. (@DilianFrancisca) May 20, 2017
The violent outbreak in Buenaventura followed decades of state neglect, extreme violence related to drug trafficking and corruption levels considered exceptional even for Colombian standards.
The city’s three past mayors are in prison for embezzling public funds.