By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia—The citizens of Choco, Colombia have been on strike for the past six days. They are protesting against the governments inaction in the region that has led to neglect, corruption and poverty. Forty-thousand residents marched and protested on Monday against the neglect. Under the presidential administration of Juan Manuel Santos the region has experienced an increase in poor living conditions and its citizens have vowed not to return to work until the living conditions improve.

Protestors in Choco demand better living conditions. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)

The demographics of Choco is 90% afro-descendants and 10% indigenous. For decades the providence has been neglected by the government and deprived of basic necessities. Choco has the highest poverty rate in the country with 65% of its residents living below poverty and 37.1% are living in extreme poverty according to Colombia’s statistic agency. The region experiences rampant violence from drug trafficking activities due to the lack of government resources to fund military personal. About 72% of the population has been a victim of crime and the homicide rate in 2015 was 69.14 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The citizens are demanding more state services including hospitals to serve the region. Currently, the capital of Choco, Quibdo, is served by one hospital which caters to the medical needs of 400,000 people. The hospital has been plagued with dire conditions including corruption and embezzlement of healthcare funds. In addition to a lack of health care services, there is limited access to clean water. Many of the water sources are contaminated with mercury caused by gold mining. Furthermore, the providence has two roads that are unpaved with no roads that lead to the nearest city of Medellin—the providence is isolated from the rest of Colombia.

Because of the poverty,  the child mortality rate in Choco is 70.4 per thousand, which is 10 times the child mortality rate in the United States. The death rate of children before reaching the age of one is 42%. Many of the deaths are due to malnutrition and illnesses that are preventable including malaria. The citizens will continue its protest. The government has responded to the strike by promising to visit the region.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports—West Colombia Province Strikes to Demand End to Rampant State Neglect—17 August 20

El espectador—Choco Sigue Firme en el Paro, el Lunes Marcharan mas de 40 mil—21 August 2016  

Colombia Reports—Colombia’s Choco: From a Tropical Paradise to a Jungle Hell—22 August 2016

Telesur—Manifestantes del Choco Esperan Commission del Gobierno—22 August 2016

Author: Cintia Garcia