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  • A resident from Choco demonstrates during the civil strike

    A resident from Choco demonstrates during the civil strike | Photo: EFE

Published 15 May 2017

Residents of Choco, the poorest region in Colombia, have slammed authorities for turning their backs on some of the country's most vulnerable people.

Residents of Colombia's Choco department, one of the areas of the country hardest hit by over half a century of internal armed conflict, have vowed to continue a civil strike called last week against the government's negligence in the face of poverty and violence in northern Colombia, with plans to expand participation Monday in the action already supported by tens of thousands.

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New organizations have shown their support and joined the protest, including the Permanent Table of Dialogue and Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of Choco and the Mining Federation of Choco.

According to Roberto Gutierrez, part of the organizers of the civil action, the government has tried to avoid the strike and stall dialogue processes in recent days.

"They did not bring the agreed solutions nor fulfilled the expectations of the people with respect to the commitments that they acquired. For this reason, we are still on an indefinite strike and the movement becomes stronger and stronger," said Gutierrez.

Organizers argued that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos hasn't met 2 percent of the commitments made to Choco residents following a similar strike held last year. These commitments included improvements in the areas of health, education, safety and transportation.

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Choco, home to large Black and Indigenous communities, is currently the poorest department in Colombia. Some 65.9 percent of Choco’s population now live below the poverty line, according to Colombia Reports. Apart from economic and social crises, many also face a difficult plight of being evicted from their homes and displaced or targeted by kidnappings, death threats and homicides as paramilitary violence continues in the area despite a historic peace agreement signed by the government and FARC rebels last year.

According to a 2014 report, 36 percent of the children in Choco did not have a healthy size and weight for their age. The report also found that child mortality was higher than the average rate in the rest of the country.

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