Continuing strikes in the La Guajira region of Colombia motivated by severe droughts
Wide scale distress at the lack of support from Colombian authorities during the water shortage has led to the closure of up to 70% of schools and businesses in the area . To date, over 22 roadblocks have been announced, 13 people arrested and 18 injuries reported.
According to the organizers, the ‘Paro Cívico Departamental por la Dignidad de La Guajira’, (County Civic Strike for the dignity of La Guajira) is intended to draw national attention to the plight of locals.
Protest leader Felipe Rodriguez said that “the debt the state owes this province is enormous”. According to Mr Rodriguez, more than half of the population do not have running water and only 39% have adequate sewage systems.
La Guajira, home to over 700,000 indigenous members of the Wayuu tribe, covers an area of more than 17,000 km2 on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The area is characterized by its unique climate which oscillates between flash flooding and drought.
Strikers state that the Colombian authorities have not done enough to ease the effects of the severe weather on the local population. Some areas in La Guajira have not had rainfall in over two years.
Local residents fear that the worst effects of the weather are still to come, with El Niño (an irregular weather phenomenon which could cause further droughts in the region) set to bring further problems to La Guajira later this year.
The government says it has done all it can to ease the water shortage. In a recent visit to La Guajira, President Santos vowed to build 100 new wells as a permanent source of drinking water for local residents.