As a critic of the poor living conditions suffered by the inhabitants of Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), the country’s main seaport, Monsignor Héctor Epalza Quintero will be remembered in that city, its bishop emeritus, who made the country aware of the horrors that were occurring with the so-called pique houses, where the dismemberment of people was perpetrated by criminal groups in that area of western Colombia.
As reported in the Noticias Caracol television newscast, the one with the highest audience in the country, since last January 29, Monsignor Epalza was in an intensive care unit in Pereira (Risaralda) after he suffered a stroke.
In the news, they noted that the priest was recognized for his defense of human rights and for the love he had earned from the residents of Buenaventura. Although in 2006 he was threatened and promised not to speak again due to the violence that plagues this port, in 2012 he denounced the chop houses.
“It already exceeds the limits of the sanity of dismembering with chainsaws. This shows the brutality and lack of humanity among these groups, ”denounced the priest in Noticias Caracol in 2012.
Monsignor Epalza, reported in the news, arrived at the port in 2004 and since then has been a critic of corruption and the historical neglect that this city has had in different governments.
“Corruption has been the breeding ground because it is no secret to anyone that the last three mayors have ended up in jail”, the bishop told Noticias Caracol at the time.
In the television news they explained that for his criticism he received threats on several occasions, but he also won the appreciation of the inhabitants in the port city.
“Let it remain united, as it was said in the civic strike that a united people will never be defeated, Buenaventura does not give up”, said the religious in another of his interventions.
The remains of the religious will be transferred from Pereira to the port, where he will be buried as he desired.
“He had declared in a notary’s office the will that his mortal remains end up buried in the Cathedral of San de Buenaventura and that is what we are going to do,” said Rubén Darío Jaramillo, bishop of Buenaventura, in the newspaper El País de Cali, one of the most traditional newspapers in western Colombia.
For the death of the religious there was even a statement from the mayor of the port district.
“Monsignor was characterized by defending the rights of Indians, blacks and mestizos. He was a man of social struggle and of claim for the most underprivileged “, expressed from the administration.
In El País they recalled that Epalza became a priest in 1965, and that in 2004 he arrived at the port. In 2017 he resigned from his Catholic post in Buenaventura and has since become the emeritus bishop of that city.