Colombia Ends 22-Day Strike in Buenaventura with Agreement to Invest more than $500 Million USD in Development
Colombia’s government today agreed to invest more than $500 million USD in development programs over the next decade to put an end to a general strike in the port city of Buenaventura that had ground the largest municipality on the nation’s Pacific coast to a near standstill for the past 22 days.
The government will invest 1.5 trillion pesos ($518 million USD) into programs meant to improve water services, sanitation, healthcare, education, housing, and other social initiatives. While local stakeholders in Buenaventura, who were protesting generally poor conditions and repeatedly unfulfilled funding pledges from policymakers in Bogotá, have agreed to halt their daily demonstrations, street blockades, and port disruptions, the formal bill to secure the funding is expected to be submitted to Congress on July 20.
The first priority will be improving water and sanitation systems in the city of more than 360,000, with the government agreeing to invest roughly $120 million USD (350 billion pesos) to ensure that the entire city will have uninterrupted water service within the next two years.
Currently, various areas of Buenaventura face interruptions routinely due to the lack of water treatment facilities. Launching two plants, Venice and Escalerete, will be job one now that the strike is over, according to the agreement. Another seven water work projects within the so-called “Plan Pazcifico” will also be implemented, said the office of the president.
“This step is important,” said Buenaventura Mayor Eliécer Arboleda Torres, calling these “works that will bring dignified living conditions to the population.”
Under the agreement, reached amid demands from the striking teachers union Fecode, more than $58 million USD (170 billion pesos) will be invested in education programs. Among other initiatives, this will pay for hiring more early education teachers and a salary increase. “We have increased teacher salaries by 12 points above that of other public servants to recognize their work and importance,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos after the deal was completed.
The health sector of Buenaventura, the capital of the department of Valle del Cauca, will receive more than $12 million USD (36.5 billion pesos). The funds will largely go toward the District Hospital of Buenaventura, particularly its intensive care unit, while additional resources will fund the construction of urban health centers and clinics.
More than $10 million USD (30 billion pesos) will be invested into housing, including budget earmarks for free housing.
Almost $210,000 USD (600 million pesos) will go toward the planned reconstruction of the city’s Klino Salazar Marino Stadium, which will come from the national Coldeportes agency and the federal government
The initial budget calls for an immediate $76 million USD in funding. The entirety of the agreed-up sums will fall under the new Autonomous Heritage Fund for Buenaventura, a condition of the deal that Congress will soon create and approve. The office of the president says it will submit the formal bill to the legislature on July 20.
After some 14 hours of negotiations, today’s agreement to stop the strike was signed by Buenaventura Mayor Eliécer Arboleda Torres, Valle del Cauca Governor Dilian Francisca Toro, Colombian Minister of the Interior Guillermo Rivera, and Minister of Environment Luis Gilberto Murillo. Twelve representatives of the Comité Ejecutivo del Paro Cívico, which led the strike, also signed a deal overseen by guarantors from the United Nations, the national Senate, and local politicians.
At least 41 people were detained and 10 police officers were injured during protests that lasted for more than three weeks, according to Colombia Reports.
Photo: Stakeholders from the national government and Buenaventura sign the agreement to end the strike today. (Credit: Presidencia de la República)