COCAINE COAST

BUENAVENTURA, COLOMBIA

DURATION: 09.42

LANGUAGE: SPANISH

SIZE: 2.2 GB (DV-PAL)

SOURCE: SEQUENCE NEWS AND NOTICIAS BUENAVENTURA

RESTRICTIONS: NO SHARE

SHOWS: 392 KILOGRAM SEIZURE OF COCAINE, COASTGUARD PATROLLING COLOMBIAN PACIFIC COAST, PEOPLE SHOT DEAD IN NEIGHBOURHOOD MASSACRE, MILITARY AT THE SCENE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD MASSACRE, LIFE IN BUENAVENTURA, HOUSING ON POLES IN RIVER, CITY CENTRE, COMMERCIAL HARBOUR.

SOUNDBITES: COLOMBIAN COASTGUARD, CAPTAIN PICÓN. DIOCESE OF BUENVENTURA, AIDA OROBIO. MOTHER WHO LOST HER SON, MELBA CANGA.

Buenaventura – the epicentre of the Colombian tragedy. 80 percent live in poverty and every other adult is unemployed. The social despair has attracted the drug trade and today it operates with the city’s Afro-Colombian youth as disposable assistants. 600 tonnes - 90 per cent of the cocaine taken by users around the world comes from Colombia. A third of it leaving from here. The shantytowns that stretch down into the river are sought after launch pads from where the traffickers take off on their journeys North. Of course the city has since long been a battleground for Colombia’s armed groups with the result of one of the world’s worst murder rates. 300 to 700 people are getting killed here – every year.

00.00 – 00.09 This is the Colombian coastguard. Employed to the dirty work of halting the never-ending flow of cocaine from the country’s Pacific coast.

00.09 – 00.30 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) COASTGUARD CAPTAIN PICÓN: “– We have lived with these great problems for twenty years now. I have seen so many people suffer. People who have lost their parents, others who have lost their children. We need help in the struggle against drug trafficking, because the problem is that drug trafficking has no limits. Drug trafficking sees no borders and has no rules.”

00.30 – 00.40 600 tonnes - 90 per cent of the cocaine taken by users around the world comes from Colombia. A third of it leaving through Captain Picón’s area.

00.40 – 00.53 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) COASTGUARD CAPTAIN PICÓN: “– We have come to understand what drug trafficking brings with it: misery, poverty, sorrow, orphan families, mothers without children, children without mothers…”

00.53 – 01.00

01.00 – 01.37 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) COASTGUARD CAPTAIN PICÓN: “– The large drug traffickers… People are beginning to understand that they operate in a way which make them invisible at the same time as they collect the big money. They stay safe and it is the people living here that get affected. The drug traffickers use these people as bait, they get sent away on trips as decoys to divert attention from the authorities. And then ship off more drugs somewhere else. So this person looses a hundred kilos but gets another two hundred out. The only thing that comes out of drug trafficking is pain and sorrow.”

01.37 – 02.21 And this is the epicentre of the tragedy – Buenaventura. The city once thrived as a coastal stop on the trade route around the Americas but the opening of the Panama Canal put a halt to the lucrative visits. Today it is still Colombia’s largest port but people living here see little of the business passing through their city. 80 percent live in poverty and every other adult is unemployed. The social despair has attracted the drug trade and today it operates with the city’s Afro-Colombian youth as disposable assistants. The waterways where the shantytowns stretch down into the river are sought after launch pads from where the traffickers take off on their journeys North. The city has since long been a battleground for Colombia’s armed groups.

02.21 – 02.42 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DIOCESE OF BUENVENTURA, AIDA OROBIO: “– At this moment Buenaventura is dominated by paramilitary groups. They are the armed force, present in a majority of the boroughs. And they are there with the help of the regular army.”

02.42 – 03.09 (ARCHIVE: NOTICIAS BUENAVENTURA) The long fight for control of Buenaventura has involved all armed groups in Colombia. The result – one of the world’s worst murder rates. In recent years, 300 to 700 people have been killed – every year. Terrifying numbers for any city and devastating for a place with no more than 300,000 citizens. Innocents have been murdered in their thousands’ as the different sides of the conflict try to wipe out the support for their opponent.

03.09 – 03.15 One of them was Pepe, Melba Cangas son.

03.15 – 03.52 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) MELBA CANGA: “–Worst of it all is the way they murdered him... It was horrible. No one deserves a death like that. Not even an animal. They had carved out the boys’ eyes, poured acid over their bodies. Made them unidentifiable… We had to try to find the right corps through looking for his clothes. I couldn’t recognize him…”

03.52 – 04.12 To know the details of a murder, a drug transport or a weapon deal – or just to speak openly about what everyone knows is going on in the city is accompanied by death. The church is one of few places where people dare to speak out.

04.12 – 05.00 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DIOCESE OF BUENVENTURA, AIDA OROBIO: “– We have witnesses saying that they heard the sound of chain-saws during the nights. And we were told that they cut up bodies – sawed off arms, legs and feet – while people were still alive. Of course there were terrible screams and this was heard around the neighbourhoods. These corpses were then put in bags which were dumped outside the city. And if someone were to look for these, they would get a message: Stop looking if you don’t want the same thing to happen to you!”

05.00 – 05.24 But who is behind all these murders? And why are they so cruel? For the police and the government there are quick answers to that: drug trafficking, a culture of crime, guerrilla warfare and poverty. Intertwined to form the present critical situation. But last year the murder rate for the first time in many years decreased and now, the police say, they have regained control.

05.24 – 05.39 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) COASTGUARD CAPTAIN PICÓN: “– Today they have no space to operate. Today when a criminal group is formed or the FARC terrorists turn up – we are there. The police, the army and the air force.”

05.39 – 06.12 But an increase in military presence does not necessarily seem to mean a decrease in smuggled drugs. This morning 392 kilos of cocaine were found in two small boats and Colombia today produces the same amount of the drug they did ten years ago. Drug trade today characterizes the entire Pacific coast of Colombia and the cartels have their own logos to distinguish their products in the complicated logistic muddle.

06.12 – 06.18 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENTS:

“– Positive. Cocaine.”

“– JR.”

“– Check the pH!”

06.18 – 06.25 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENTS: “– Pure Cocaine.” “– And the quality? Is it good or bad? “– Very good. Very good.”

06.35 – 07.15 But maybe Captain Picón and his men are looking in the wrong place. Last year 3.5 tonnes of cocaine were found, but not in cookie boxes or in the Afro-Colombians’ boats – but in one of the containers in the large commercial harbour operated by the government and the Buenaventura social elite. What quantities that have passed through here before and after that large seizure no one knows. But today’s mayor in Buenaventura has a background of being imprisoned for corruption and the executive board of the harbour as well as large parts of the Colombian congress have been exposed for collaborating with the drug cartels.

07.16 – 08.06 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DIOCESE OF BUENVENTURA, AIDA OROBIO: “– The drug trade plays a large part for all interests. Because it strengthens all groups. The paramilitaries gain from the drug trade. The guerrilla gains from the drug trade. But also the military get their share of the pie. By closing their eyes in one moment and striking down the next, they also get paid. The truth is that we don’t see any true intentions in putting an end to the drug trade. Because many times actions carried out by the authorities rather appear as support for it all to go on.”

08.06 – 08.42 And only in this perspective the chain-saw massacres become understandable. What is going on in Buenaventura is not primarily a war on drugs, but rather a drug-financed war. That the murder rate in recent years has broken all records is because of a takeover, where paramilitary mafia, with a green light from the regular army, has cleansed the city from the guerrilla. But even though the situation now seems to stabilize and the access ways to the large drug routes have been conquered, Melba Canga is still pessimistic about her future.

08.42 – 08.59 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) MELBA CANGA: “– Almost all police are corrupt. Five officers were involved in the massacre where my son got killed. They told me five of them were involved in the killing of my son. When I realised that I stopped seeing them as my children’s and my defenders of law and order.”

08.59 – 09.16 With corruption infiltrating all parts of society and with a dysfunctional justice system failing on all levels, Buenaventura’s citizens put little faith in the current authorities leading their future.

09.16 – 09.35 (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) DIOCESE OF BUENAVENTURA, AIDA OROBIO: “–The authorities don’t have a credible strategy, they don’t have a plan to act after and the citizens don’t trust its representatives. This kind of mistrust is the most vicious enemy.”

09.35 – 09.42