Colombia Support Network Paz y Justicia / Peace and Justice Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:49:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The ZIDRES : Another Failed Attempt Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:46:53 +0000 Original Source :,-otro-intento-fallido.html

Article by Enrique Herrera Araujo, “The ZIDRES: Another Failed Attempt” dated July 27, 2015

Translated by Jessica Schwartz and edited by Jack Laun, CSN volunteer translators 

These special zones of rural development did not work in the past in Colombia and they do not have how nor why to function now. Here are the reasons for this new announced failure.

Circular History:

The Zonas de Interes de Desarrollo Rural, Economico y Social (Zones of Interest for Rural, Economic and Social Development), or ZIDRES, would be rural areas where campesinos (small-scale farmers) could associate themselves with major investors to advance agricultural and livestock production for reciprocal benefit. The Santos government holds a great deal of hope in these zones as a means of addressing the needs of landless campesinos, while at the same time promoting the necessary modernization of the countryside.

But as the ZIDRES are conceived in the draft of proposed Law 223 of 2015—which a short while ago was passed by the full Chamber of Representatives and is now being considered in the Senate—they will suffer the same fate as that of the Zones of Economic Development (ZDE) created by Law 160 of 1994; in 20 years not one such Zone has been created. 

This land is occupied, although it has not been legalized, titled or formalized, and in these conditions it is hard to imagine that a significant amount of private foreign investment would be made in these proposed ZIDRES.

Colombia has experienced the tragic fate of repeating itself to exhaustion, of choking on its deeds, of moving forward and then backward, as if history were a type of wheel which kept turning or like a dog which in trying to bite its tail moves in a circle without end or beginning.

This has happened so far with violence, with winters, with embezzlement, and with so much other “news” of this country of ours. It seems that the ZIDRES will suffer the same fate.

The Mistaken Supposition:

The proposed ZiDRES bill proposes that private initiative and investment promote rural development in certain abandoned and remote zones of the country, just as happened in the second half of the Twentieth Century—although in other agro-ecological conditions and in places closer to the centers of consumption. Proposed law 223 of 2015 will remain a dead letter for several reasons, but the principal one is that it is based upon a mistaken supposition.  

That moment marked the beginning of the modernization of agriculture, with the increased use of machinery, the application of new technologies, the emergence of a new business organization, and international marketing of products such as coffee, flowers, cane sugar, bananas, and palm oil.

The intention to deliver rural development to private investment in these specific areas is valid and necessary (as long as it is regulated), and surely this goal becomes more pressing today given the government’s fiscal difficulties, which will reduce the budget for the agricultural sector by nearly 50% from 2015 to 2016, from 3.3 to 1.4 billion pesos. 

Therefore the ZIDRES project directs its batteries towards the Orinoco region and especially the Altillanura, a territory which offers a broad availability of lands for agricultural use, where the cost per hectare continues to be low (although it has been increasing) and where there is great environmental richness.

Also in this region there still coexist the following:

The absence of clear rules for private investment in rural areas;
High informality in rural property ownership.
Legal uncertainty over the land
Difficulties in incorporating indigenous and black in productive alliances.

The ZIDRES seek precisely to intervene in these types of zones, classified as remote, with low population density, high levels of poverty, high demand for investment in transport infrastructure and marketing, and that require because of low soil fertility and agro-ecological conditions, economies of scale and megaprojects which maximize productivity and reduce unit costs.

However, these goals will remain as no more than good intentions, and good intentions pave the road to hell.

The project assumes that the untitled lands where ZIDRES would be created are empty and that nobody occupies these lands and exercises authority over them. But this is not true, and therein lies the project’s great mistake. 

The land is occupied, although not legally or formally titled. And in these conditions it is difficult to imagine large private investment under ZIDRES. Therefore, before creating any “development zone of interest”, a massive program of formalization of rural property would have to be completed. In that way legal clarity would be provided on land titles in a territory which lacks them and this would permit negotiating with campesinos in better conditions for participating in a productive alliance with businesses.

The Reasons for Failure:

Other reasons exist that portend the failure of the ZIDRES:

The ZIDRES bill does not profile one or more associative models for the productive alliances between large, medium and small producers which would incorporate more than one UAF (Family Agricultural Unit) of baldio origin and which would follow what was stipulated by the Constitutional Court in its Sentence C-644 of 2012, so that the campesino would not be 
separated from the land, but would be engaged in the project’s activities, would participate in the profits and improve his living conditions. 

The ZIDRES bill does not recognize the actors of the region.

The bill does not say anything about Sentence C-644 and does not establish rules of the game so that large investment arrives at a zone where the UAF of baldio origin are abundant and legal insecurity about rural property is common. This situation signifies too much legal uncertainty in the business world, where legal clarity is needed in order to be able to invest.

Even more, the lack of existence of a model of regulated association was due to the notorious “incident” of Riopaila Castilla, Cargill, Monica Seeds, Poligrow and other companies which fell into the accumulation of UAF baldios, and which led to the resignation of Carlos Urrutia, Santos’ Ambassador to the United States.

The ZIDRES bill seeks to provide a concession or lease, but never to adjudicate or title, the baldios for agricultural and livestock use. That is to say, it wishes to maintain extensive zones of the country in informality of title or as property of the Nation, and in that case the State would continue to be an owner on paper.

Furthermore, the State should not keep maintaining zones dedicated to agricultural and livestock production, especially when the Nation is the largest landowner in Colombia, possessing more than 450,000 hectares in the National Agrarian Fund, although those hectares are occupied and exploited by others while the Colombian Institute of Rural Development 
(INCODER) and the Ministry of Agriculture are the ones who pay the real estate taxes on them.

Public policy should seek titling of productive lands, and the State should end its ownership of these properties and establish a country of landowners. A separate issue is if the areas in question are forest reserves, environmental protection areas or strategic military zones. In these cases, the Nation should reserve the lands as its own, but in the other cases, it should adjudicate the lands to the many campesinos without land who exist in Colombia.

In Colombia’s agrarian policy the dominant paradigm is of centralized development, “top down”, and with a sectoral approach. This paradigm has not only not yielded the expected results, but it has in fact produced the opposite results.
Therefore, one cannot understand why, taking into account the foregoing, the ZIDRES are declared from Bogota and in Bogota. There the Rural Agricultural Planning Unit (UPRA) will carry out a technical study; the national government, through CONPES, will delimit the zones; and the Council of Ministers will approve the ZIDRES by decree. If the national government is declaring to the four winds that rural development will have a territorial approach, the question arises, What role will regional and local institutions play in the constitution of the ZIDRES? As things are planned, the department, the municipality, the agricultural organizations, the campesinos, the unions and the Departmental Councils of Rural Development (CONSEA), among others, would be excluded from decisions they should make and which affect them.

By and For the Regions.

Therefore, it is fitting to call attention to the document Rural Development with a Territorial Focus of the United Nations says: “The policy of rural development requires a lot of knowledge and this not only exists in the illustrated technocracy at a central level. Much of it is in the regions and localities of the country, in formal and informal organizations, n public and private institutions, in the centers of investigation and thought of the territories, with their differences of visions and conceptions.”

The proposed ZIDRES law ignores the actors in the region, who are the ones most familiar with the territory because the closest read on it. Little will be done if the state of occupancy of these lands is not known and if clear rules are not established for private investment in areas which originally were baldios, through associative models which include the campesino in labor and productivity terms.

Nor will they get very far if they do not formalize rural property and if the State seeks to keep being the title-holder or owner of productive lands which it should adjudicate to private persons (including campesinos). 

Note: The author, Enrique Herrera Araujo, is a lawyer who specializes in regional development, and has a master of arts in public policy. He is an expert in lands and rural development, and is an advisor in Postconflict.

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CSN Newsletter November 2015 Sat, 21 Nov 2015 23:09:22 +0000 This edition of our CSN Newsletter features articles related to our July delegation to Colombia, which focused on threats to water supplies and rural communities presented by government-supported mining and road construction plans. We also look at the vibrant response of the residents of the threatened communities. From the Santurban paramos near Bucaramanga, to the Kamentsa and Inga communities in the Sibundoy Valley, to the town of Marmato, this Newsletter details how communities are confronting the threat presented by multinational development plans to their communities.
Newsletter November 2015

Click here for the CSN November 2015

  • Visiting Sibundoy
  • A Visit to the Santurban Paramo
  • Visit with Lawyers’ Collective of Bucaramanga
  • Discussion of My Trip to Bucaramanga and California in the Department of Santander
  • A Few Notes on the Peace Process


Letter from Craig Wehrle, longtime member of the CSN board

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The Colombian Countryside Needs More Than a Land Fund Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:43:31 +0000 Source:
(Translated by Deryn Collins, a CSN Volunteer Translator).

The creation of a land fund, proposed in negotiations between the Government and the FARC in Havana, Cuba, is an important step towards resolving the problems of access and Land Use in Colombia, but it is not the solution; especially when the Government puts forward proposals to legalize land theft.

This is the way that César Jerez, spokesperson for the National Association of Campesino Reserve Areas (ANZOR), expressed it during the XI Seminar: Another Economy is Possible, held in Medellin by the Network of Economic Solidarity (Redsol).

In an interview with the press agency IPC, Jerez said that in Colombia one has to think that ‘when developing rural areas, there is a negative context: the plan is one of mining, which takes land and is predatory.’

Jerez points out that this development model requires all the land and all the resources, which makes it unfeasible and unbalanced, especially when compared to other visions of rural development for the indigenous and Afro-American campesinos (small-scale farmers). Because of this, the campesino leader believes that a balanced plan is required, where wealth is redistributed and the territory is organized. If not, “there will be an unstable and difficult peace.”

Regarding the integrated rural development plan agreed to in Havana, Jerez considers that there must  be better guarantees, and that the State really must implement and follow through on whatever plan is agreed upon.

“The lack of trust is not very obvious,” according to Jerez, “Colombia is a country where historically the Government has failed the rural people; and worse still, has talked about creating a land fund, while at the same time proposing a law about so-called Zones of Interest Rural, Economic and Social Development (ZIDRES).”

This initiative, which aims to grant entrepreneurs an open field, ‘does nothing more than mock Law 160, which states that these areas are for campesinos  without or with little land’, says the agriculture director. For this, what the Government is looking for with ZIDRES, is to ´legalize all the Colombian land held by illegal landowners and landlords, who concentrate on land in different regions of Colombia.

César Jerez, as the campesino leader, what is your point of view about the integrated rural development agreement?
That there has been some advance in partial agreement has generated a lot of expectation. After 30 years of trying to reach agreement with the FARC, we finally have a process that has advanced at least 4 points with partial agreement. This says a lot about the quality of the process that happened in Havana.

But the agreements are only partial, and the most pivotal topic on the agenda, integrated rural development with a focus on territory, has already raised some doubts. That is, agreements cannot be partial because they will solve nothing. It is necessary to move forward. There are caveats on the subject and this agreement needs more compromise and more concessions on the part of the Government.

While a land fund can help change the situation, the fact that there is a register in not enough. There has to be a solution to land access, the formalization of the property, and predatory and land-consuming mining must be taken into account when designing the development of the rural zones of the country.

Therefore, there is much left to agree on. The final agreement on this matter must have more guarantees: the sovereignty over food, which was lost, must be recovered; and there must be dignity for the, at least, 15 million people who still live in rural areas in this country. They must be guaranteed political participation and full human rights.

If this does not happen, what comes after a final agreement with the FARC would likely be very ambiguous and cause a lot of anxiety for the people on this land. For example, there are people who have lived their whole lives in zones under the control of the FARC, where the insurgent group has held de-facto power. These individuals are worried about who will guarantee their security against drug-traffickers, paramilitary groups and aggression by the State.  In one way or another, this has been the role of the guerrillas in these areas. I am not justifying whether this has been right or wrong.

There are various visions of rural development in this country, on one hand, agriculture and the other, mining, and other initiatives such as the Zonas de Reserva Campesina (Campesino Reserve Zones), agricultural districts… Should or could there be a balance between these visions? Or would that need a profound transformation?
The lack of territorial order, the lack of public policies, the lack of investment, the structural problems the land has have converted the Colombian countryside into chaos, with the added circumstance that it is a zone marked by armed conflict.

The actual scenario is of antagonism between two sectors:

On the one hand, campesinos without rights; Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples with partial rights; small producers who have lost market guarantees, and those for whom small scale production is unviable; all this associated with the reforms of the last decades which are consolidated in the Free Trade Treaties.

On the other hand, the mining, fundamentally increasing the petroleum business, having mining and generation of electricity in the territory, and agro industry. This makes balance impossible because this plan needs all the land and resources, with the added serious problem that it is a non-distributive plan; it does not redistribute wealth, nor does it generate development and well being in the zones where the resources are being extracted. What is generated is a large contradiction, and this is evident in the number of social and environmental conflicts throughout the whole country, which this plan would result in.

I think balance is necessary… that is, a balance in giving rights to campesinos,  including rights of access to the land and use; increasing the rights of Afro-American and indigenous people; and guaranteeing sustainability in rural economy and for small producers.

This can be achieved with resources, but because there is a situation of backwardness, ostracism and marginalism this would require a lot of investment. These resources could come from a measured mining and energy plan, and the expansion of the petroleum business; with some territory defined for this, with consultation where necessary, because the worry with this plan is that it is against all the odds and the will of the local people.

With this dynamic of exclusion in land use and economic planning it is difficult to think that a lasting and stable peace is possible, with the full agreement of the FARC.

Your answer touches on the subject of the rights of the communities to the territory. How could these communities increase their capability to exercise these rights?
In a scenario of an eventual agreement there would have to be a guaranteed framework for land use. In one way or another, it was intended by the introduction in the agreements of a Zona de Reserva Campesina National Association of Peasant Reserve Areas (Anzor) to give the campesinos what they were looking for: land rights for Afro-American and indigenous peoples, which have been recognized in the Colombian Constitution since 1991 and need to be amplified – but what is new is that for the first time campesino rights, that have had a legal framework since 1994, would be included.

Now, the way to ensure that these rights have more guarantees, that is, they must respect previous free and informed consultations with the Afrocolombians and indigenous people, and more than one or two rural territories need to be included. The regulation of the rest of the areas is still to be completed so that the communities will not face a future threat, for these life plans, for the rural economy.

So one of the biggest challenges for the future of the country, where politics is done without arms, is to gain consensus in territorial planning which includes all the interests, which protects the environment and with guarantees.

What are the issues of restitution and vacating of lands in the country?
These are two of the topics where the Government is sending messages contrary to the Havana agreement, and contrary to the compromise that exists in Law 160 and Law 1448 of Victims and Land Restitution.

There is a total paradox. While in Havana there are advances with partial agreement, it is in vain and there are delays in the restitution – in restitution because the figures speak of a failure. There is no restitution with guarantees, no security for the return of the farming families and there is an element of military doctrine by the Ministry of Defence, who decide whether land is returned or not depending on various security determiners. So the amount of failures is high, the number of restitutions low, and the lack of guarantees is evident.

As we have said although the law is an advance, with all its little success, the fact that there is a law of restitution is very important in a conservative landowning and land-grabbing country such as Colombia.

We have proposed a plan where land is restored with rights in the Zones of Reservas Campesinas. Obviously the Government has not responded to this proposal. The failures of the judges who could help with the upholding of Law 160 which constitutes the farming areas as ZRC that development plans are funded and this could be an error of the judge, and these repairs and returns would be in a collective form in these territories.

On the other hand, in vain, the Government, at the same time as coming to an agreement about a land fund with the FARC in Havana, have also opened the way to a plan for a law about ZIDRES, the supposed zones of Interest for Rural Economic Development, which are nothing more than mockery of Law 160 on public land. This law is clear and says that this land is for campesinos with little or no land. With this rule, the Government looks to legalize the illegal, the land which was taken by the landowners and landlords of the land to be returned in Vichada, in the high plains of the country, and at the same time start a business with these lands to give these lands to foreigners to bring in foreign capital.

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A Yes That Appears to be a No for Peace Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:26:02 +0000 Source:
(Translated by Whitney Johnson and Haley Olig, CSN Volunteer Translators)

Opinion article by José Girón Sierra, peace analyst for the Observatory for Human Rights of the IPC – Popular Education Institute

On October 19, the economic unions of Colombia delivered a document to the government, which confirmed their position on the current negotiation process being carried out in Havana, Cuba, with the guerrilla organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The importance of this document cannot be ignored, especially since it arises when considering that the peace process has reached the point of no return.  But it is striking how little media and analysts have covered the document; not to mention those who emphasized the document’s importance have conveniently ignored the many ways in which it falls flat.

The Colombian elite’s opinion on ending the conflict is of utmost importance.  It is to know the extent to which they are committed to the shared vision of not only overcoming inequality and exclusion, but also the changes that would foster a vigorous democracy.  Peace is said to be a good business for two reasons.  Firstly, war can swallow all of the resources desired by a society, leaving nothing but destruction.  However, when these same resources are used for peace they create a more just and democratic society, which ultimately allows freedom to triumph.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, ending the conflict will stop the damage to lives and the permanent scars of victimization.  The level of economic development that can occur in conditions of peace is impossible in a society where fear, distrust, and pessimism prevail.

Though it seems obvious, it has not been in the case of Colombia. The elite, those that make up part of the economic sector, historically have found in the war a very efficient way to preserve their interests, which could explain their recent conduct, as a single block, when the Democratic Security proposed the war tax to them.

The elites historically have found that war is an efficient way to preserve their interests, which possibly explains their recent unification and action against a war tax proposed by the Seguridad democrática (a military solution to the conflict, following the political and philosophical beliefs of former president Alvaro Uribe).

Here are some proposals of the aforementioned document:

Responding to the question ‘why negotiate?’, the Trade-Union Board points out that: “Neither because the subversive cause is seen as fair in its motives and procedures, nor because the armed rebels have the capacity to threaten the stability of the Republic. Essentially, the reasons are humanitarian. The violence exercised by armed groups outside of the law has victimized countless Colombians, especially those belonging to the poorest social classes of the rural zones”

The text is very clear.  It breaks from the theory of state and victim society.  In what has occurred there are no structural causes; the historically violent dispossession of land, as all conditions, has been perpetuated and deepened for more than fifty years; and inequality and exclusion are part of an argument with no basis in reality.  So here there is only one culprit: the insurgency.  With all arguments presented, the only possible conclusion is that the unions cannot be held responsible; and that their rightful role, if any, is strictly humanitarian.  It is therefore worrisome that the Jurisidcción Especial para la paz (Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a transitional justice system established as a result of the peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government) can indict them, even when it is conceived of universal and outside application of privileges and immunities.

“Regarding the material that the Court would address, it is said the Court will focus on crimes committed in the context of conflict, either directly or indirectly.  For the liberal criminal law the indictment – and therefore the punishment – depend on individual actions, either as authors, materials or intellectuals, accomplices or accessories to the crime.  The possibility of indirect responsibility worries us.  We consider it necessary, therefore, that this matter be one of precision.”

With relation to the first point on the agenda, the interests are quite precise:

“Agreed in the first point on Desarrollo Rural Integral is that it will only be applied if there is no quarrel with the red line of non-negotiability of the general development model of which it part.”

“The proposals made regarding Desarrollo Rural Integral and solutions to rural poverty must be based on respect for and legal guarantee of private property.”

“Thus, instruments like expropriation in the social or public interest, and administrative forfeiture of control as a result of noncompliance with the social and ecological function of the property – although pre-existing in Colombian legislature –  must be revised and regulated in implementation within a framework that guarantees due process and legitimate defense of legal owners of the land.”

In other words: this is a yes to negotiation, but it cannot change the current status of property.

It is a cause of concern that the president identifies with this: “We completely endorse the points that I have just finished reading from the doctor Bruce Mac Master.  There is not the slightest difference between these points and the position that the government has held and will continue to hold until the moment we sign the agreements, and even after when we start to implement them”.

Let’s hope that this is not the same trick we’ve seen throughout the armed conflict.  It bears repeating that peace has some high costs, if indeed the is conclusion that there is no place for repetition.  The truth is that one of the greatest costs comes where there will be greater resistance, and business owners cannot be an exception.

José Girón Sierra
Analyst for the Observatory of Human Rights of the IPC
October 28, 20125

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Constitutional Court Orders Suspension of Gold Mining to Two Companies in Marmato Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:40:31 +0000 Source:
(Translated by Mai Tyler, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The High Court called for further prior consultation before continuing mining activities in the state of Caldas.

The Seventh Chamber of Revision of Tutelas (a legal resource granted to individuals by the 1991 Constitution.  It grants Colombians the right to allege that a law is unconstitutional as it applies to them, and to seek compensation) of the Constitutional Court ordered the temporary suspension of gold mining in Marmato (Caldas) by multinational companies Gran Colombia Gold and Minerales Andinos de Occidental. This provisional measure was taken with the intent to reinforce the High Court’s request for prior consultation.

The High Court granted the tutela to the prior requests to members of two communities – the indigenous Cartama community; and the Afrocolombian Asojomar community, “who make a living from artisanal and informal mining in ViIllonza,¨ located in the highest part of El Burro Mountain in Marmato, Caldas, reversing a previous decision of the Superior Court of Manizales.

To ensure the enforcement of the new provision, the Corporation ordered the Mayor’s office of Marmato ¨to offer as much support as possible within the confines of the law, ¨ to enforce the guided measures of the suspension of mining activities. In addition, the Ministry of Mining will discontinue granting requests to mine in the region.

¨We have ordered the companies Gran Colombia Gold and Minerales Andinos de Occidente S.A. to immediately suspend ongoing mining activities, either direct or proxy, in the highest part of El Burro mountain, specifically in the Villonza mine in the municipality of Marmato, Caldas,¨ read the resolution.

Finally, the ombudsman was ordered to ¨support, accompany and supervise the compliance with¨ the fault ¨with the goal of guaranteeing the effectiveness of the rights that protect the members of the indigenous community of Cartam and the members of Asojomar that live and/or practice traditional mining, informally and by hand, in the Villonza mine in El Burro mountain.¨ The court stopped without effect the resolution GTRM No. 751 in September 2010 where they ¨ordered the closure and eviction of the Villonza mine in El Burro mountain in Marmato, Caldas, until proper procedures of the prior consultation process were implemented and followed.¨

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Goodyear-Colombia: Another Multinational that Refuses to Negotiate with Workers on their Demands; Strike Now on Day 10 Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:31:20 +0000 Source:—;1;-;-;&x=20171537
(Translated by Steve Fake, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Author: Labor Information Agency (Agencia de Información Laboral- ENS)
Author email:
Publication Date: 10/23/2015

Since October 13, the workers at the Goodyear plant in Yumbo in the Valle del Cauca have been engaged in a work stoppage. The action is an outgrowth of the strike called by the union in response to the intransigence of this multinational in the face of the workers’ list of demands.

For 22 years, Goodyear-Colombia enjoyed a state of labor peace. Goodyear maintained a dialogue with the union and negotiated collective bargaining agreements every 2 to 5 years. But this time, Goodyear changed that dynamic and refused to address the key points of the statement submitted to it by SINTRAINCAPLA. SINTRAINCAPLA is a national union branch of the rubber and plastics industry that represents 174 of the 245 Goodyear plant workers.

“Goodyear is more interested in imposing a disastrous counter-proposal than in providing a solution to the needs of their workers, which is why we were obliged to strike after exhausting the deadline and the extension for concluding direct negotiations,” said Julio César Molina, president of SINTRAINCAPLA. The strike was approved in a vote by almost 100% of the unionized workers.

However, the union said that even in the midst of the strike it is ready to discuss and reach an agreement allowing the resumption of production at the plant in Yumbo. But so far the company has not indicated any interest in making concessions, despite the mediation offered by the Deputy Minister of Labor, Enrique Borda, and the regional office of the Labor Ministry in El Valle.

Arguments by the company for their refusal to negotiate are scarce, Molina said, because it is a booming business that would not be affected by meeting the demands submitted by the workers.

Indeed, after the closure of the plant owned by the French multinational Michellin last year, which had also been located in Valle del Cauca, Goodyear was the only tire producer in Colombia. According to the president of SINTRAINCAPLA, this has benefitted Goodyear because it allowed the corporation to gain greater market share in the country.

The key points of the demands that the company has refused to negotiate relate to the amount of the salary increase, which Goodyear refuses to raise to 4.5%; increased benefits to improve the welfare of workers and their families; and better job security by enhancing the compensation packages provided when the company wants to layoff workers.

This last point is related to Goodyear’s plan to build a plant in Mexico to produce 6 million tires a year, which, according to Molina, is raising fears that the new plant will supplant production in Colombia, much as happened to Michellin workers, who lost their jobs because of the closure of the plant. In fact, the production orders that Goodyear was unable to fulfill because of the strike are being supplied by the production plant in Brazil.

Another grievance advanced by the union concerns the intention of Goodyear to establish distinctions between workers regarding traditional labor guarantees. “There is a group of temp workers that should be formally hired, but Goodyear wants to employ them under low wage conditions, and to give them fewer benefits than the plant workers receive – and they want the union to endorse this. And we cannot endorse the creation of tiers in which workers who perform the same functions have different incomes,” said Molina.

The union leader reported that they remain firm in continuing the strike and retain control of the Yumbo plant. The workers are maintaining the facilities and equipment so that the strike remains within legal channels. Meanwhile, the union has called upon the public and trade unions and social organizations to provide support for their cause.

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(Translated by Colin Kluender, CSN Volunteer Translator)

We continue relating the press statements sent out by the Tolima Network of Environmental Committees. The content is of the source; the Network is not affiliated with us [Environmental Justice].

Pope Francis and several socio-environmental authorities argue that environmental protection and an end to the war are both necessary for Colombians to live decent lives.  Meanwhile, the government of Juan Manuel Santos carries out mining projects in various areas of the Colombian territory that threaten human rights and the socio-natural stability of the communities.

As an alternative to the ever-growing encroachments, the environmental movement of the Department of Tolima is implementing a territorial defense process that is pacifistic, nonviolent, artistic, playful, creative and participatory, that reflects and expounds the rejection of polluting mining projects such as La Colosa in Cajamarca-Tolima (property of Anglogold Ashanti).

The environmental movement of Tolima rejects that in Colombia, a social state of right, the particular rights of mining companies are being prioritized over the collective rights to citizen involvement, as well as to healthy life, water, and environment.

Within the framework of this context we communicated that:

  1. September 30th, 2015, the Tolima Environmental Committee in Defense of Life, the Socio-Environmental Youth Group of Cajamarca (COSAJUCA), the Peasant’s Union, the Peasant Awareness Board, and the Association of Agroecological Producers of the River Basin of the Anaime River (APACRA) received a letter signed by the Black Eagles in which they threaten the integrity of some of its members.
  2. We recall that at the end of June and July of 2015 there were several threats to members of the Tolima Network of Environmental Committees.
  3. Employees of Anglogold Ashanti Colombia stigmatized Anaime-Cajamarca campesinos who were on the citizen board convened on February 22, 2013, by Cortolima, to reject La Colosa (a controversial super-mining project).


  1. We demand that the Colombian state guarantee the integrity of the members of the Network of Environmental Committees.
  2. We demand that the institutions of the State investigate and clarify the facts.
  3. We demand that the Colombian state grant the necessary protective measures to guarantee the work, integrity and reputation of the defenders of water, life and territory.


Note: Please send your notes of support to:

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN – President of the Republic
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Cauca Bogotá
Fax: 5662071 Fax: (+571) 566.20.71

Secretary of Defense
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá, D.C.

JUAN FERNANDO CRISTO. – Secretary of the Interior
Carrera 9a. No. 14-10 – Bogotá, D.C.
PBX (+57) 444 31 00 Ext. 1820

LUIS EDUARDO MONTEALEGRE – Attroney General of the Nation
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01  – Bogotá, D.C.
Phone: 570 20 00 – 414 90 00

Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogotá
Fax: (+571) 640.04.91

ALEJANDRO ORDOÑEZ MALDONADO – Attroney General of the Nation
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
Email: anticorrupció, reygon@procuradurí

Colombia – Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
Calle 114 No. 9-45 Torre B Oficina 1101 Edificio TeleportBussines Park – Bogotá, Colombia
Phone: PBX (57-1) 629 3636 (57-1) 629 3636
Fax : (57-1) 629 3637


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(Translated by Costanza Generali, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Just short of thirty years of an incessant search by relatives of those who were disappeared during the Palacio de Justicia holocaust, yesterday the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science publicly identified the skeletal remains of three of these missing people: CRISTINA DEL PILAR GUARÍN and LUZ MARY PORTELA LEÓN, were workers in the courthouse cafeteria; and LUCY AMPARO OVIEDO, an occasional visitor. All three disappeared during the events that occurred on November 6th and 7th of 1985 in the city of Bogotá.

To the families of Cristina, Luz Mary, and Lucy Amparo, we express our immense solidarity, for the thirty years they have in anguish, lacking any information regarding the victims’ whereabouts.

We join the families and all who have accompanied them in this search, in requesting investigative operations to provide a comprehensive clarification of the circumstances of time, manner, and place in which the victims died, as well as how the remains were moved to the place in which they were found.

The work being done by the Fiscalía General de la Nación (National District Attorney) in the search and identification of bodies is the result of both orders from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the tireless fight of relatives and their representatives. In November 2014 the international organization deemed the Colombian state responsible for the grave human rights violations committed by the Colombian Army while regaining control of the Palacio de Justicia.

In its decision, the I/A Court included in the recognition of the state’s accountability: lack of rigor in the handling of cadavers and safeguarding of the scene at which the events occurred; improper handling of evidence; methods used to preserve the chain of custody; and other offenses. The Final Report of the Truth Commission on the Palacio de la Justicia Events (2010), as well as national courts, had already established the existence of conclusive evidence of alteration of the crime scene and irregularities in body removal.

In addition, the I/A Court determined that a group of people that had been classified as “suspicious” or “special”—in other words, marked as being part of guerrilla forces—were forcibly taken from the Palacio de Justicia by the army, led to the Casa del Florero, and subsequently taken to military grounds where they were tortured. Some of the victims of torture were later freed and provided brave testimonies from which judicial authorities were able to reconstruct the modus operandi of the army forces. However, another group of victims, including the cafeteria workers, were desaparecidos (forcefully “disappeared” by the government).

There exists video footage showing various people being taken alive into military custody – among them the cafeteria manager Carlos Augusto Rodríguez, who disappeared; the M-19 guerrilla fighter WILLIAM ALMONACID, who was later found executed; and the Assistant Judge to the State Council CARLOS HORACIO URÁN ROJAS, who, after being taken from the building, was disappeared and later found executed inside the Palacio – constituting irrefutable evidence of the state’s violations. Within the penal process it was demonstrated with certainty that CARLOS AUGUSTO RODRÍGUEZ and IRMA FRANCO PINEDA were taken alive from the Palacio de Justicia and forcibly disappeared, events for which Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega was later convicted.

It has already been established that the Colombian army knew in advance that the M-19 guerrillas would take over the Palacio de Justicia; and that despite of this knowledge, military security was removed one day before the takeover – facts for which the state was further condemned by the Inter-American Court. In this setting, the Colombian state took responsibility for the unlawful manipulation of the crime scene and the irregular handling of cadavers.

A year after the Inter-American Court handed down the judgement, governmental compliance is minimal, particularly regarding its obligations to: investigate the truth surrounding instances of torture, forced disappearance, and extrajudicial executions; provide immediate medical and psychological services to the relatives of victims; and publicly recognize its international responsibility for the human rights violations declared in the I/A Court sentence – all efforts that should be led President of the Republic Juan Manuel Santos.

The commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of these events should be a loud call of alarm for the Colombian state to settle its historical debt of truth, justice, and reparation with the Palacio de Justicia victims.

As representatives of the victims we request:

  1. Further investigation based due diligence so as to establish the truth of: the circumstances of time, manner, and place in which Cristina del Pilar Guarín, Luz Mary Portela, and Lucy Amparo Oviedo lost their lives; the way in which their bodies arrived at the site in which they were found and identified; and the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators.
  1. We call upon the Fiscalía General de la Nación to make all necessary efforts to find the bodies of all persons forcibly disappeared in the events at the Palacio de Justicia, and hand over the remains to their families, so that they may honor them according to their beliefs and values; and to investigate and try all those responsible for forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and any violation of human rights committed while taking back control of the Palacio de Justicia.
  1. We request that the authorities comply with the obligation to make restitution to victims’ rights and to provide transparency in judicial inquiries, while relying on forensic experts to join in search operations, analysis, and the identification of remains. This should be done under the supervision the United Nations-Human Rights, to the effect of producing a comprehensive analysis of skeletal remains from the Palacio de Justicia.
  1. We representatives of victims consider it in the interest of truth and transparency of judicial inquiries to rely on experts of forensic matters to accompany – as in the past – in search operations, analysis, and identification of remains.
  1. We demand that judicial and administrative authorities immediately comply with the Inter-American Court’s ruling in the case of desaparecidos at the Palacio de Justicia, victims of torture, and the execution of Magistrate Carlos Horacio Urán, along with other crimes committed by agents of the police force.

The Lawyer’s Collective, Jose Alvear Restrepo
Interfaith Commission of Justice and Peace
Network of Non-Institutional Defenders of Colombia

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AUX Mining Company, with interests in Santurbán, was sold to an Abu Dhabi group Fri, 23 Oct 2015 21:45:06 +0000 Source:
(Translated by Haley Olig, a CSN Volunteer Translator)

The multinational company AUX with projects in nearby páramo (unique mountain ecosystem found between 3000-5000 meters above sea level that is a sensitive habitat for plants that convert mist into liquid water) Santurbán was sold to a holding company of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

After months of speculation around a possible sale to entrepreneurs in Qatar, the company Mubadala Development Co. of the United Arab Emirates acquired 100% of the company.

The transaction amount is still unknown.

What has happened in Santurbán after the demarcation? One thing is clear after the Ministry of Environment’s determination that mining could in fact be done: the demarcation and the projects of the corporations do not entirely coincide.  However, the outlook for Soto Norte is still fuzzy.

After two years of waiting, in December of 2014 the Ministry of Environment finally revealed the demarcation of Santurbán.

Almost 10 months later, the process had apparently lost “tension”, but not because an effective and definitive solution had been found.

The Vice Minister of the environment, Pablo Vieira, claimed that the domain of his department was delimitation; after they had done that, they looked for support from other ministries.

“Our commitment was more than to articulate to Minimas and the Ministry of Agriculture to bring programs to the area,” he said.

Now, if one thing is clear, not only with the demarcation, but also with the article that includes the parameters of the country’s National Development Plan, is that there will be mining.

The three mining companies with the most titles are currently in different locations, but the agenda would be viable.

The Little That Is Known
The multinational mining companies that have projects and land titles in the area of influence of the páramo (unique mountain ecosystem found between 3000-5000 meters above sea level that is a sensitive habitat for plants that convert mist into liquid water) have refused to comment in recent months.

The company least affected by the demarcation was AUX, which after the bankruptcy of owner Erik Batista, has not yet accepted an offer ‘sounded’ from Quatar.  However, the company is currently opening labor calls in California, which implies the reactivation of operations.

For its part Leyhat, which operates mostly in Vetas, has not made any announcement; although it is said in the region that it was the company most affected by the delimitation.

Eco Oro compromised a portion of its project.  However, sources close to the company state that in this moment it is terminating technical studies and looking for capital from the international market.

And the Control?
To leave open the possibility of mining development in the area and simultaneously protect the area, control is an important issue.

Vice Minister Vieira believes that the greatest advantage arising from the demarcation is that it provides tools and agencies to control and monitor processes before, during, and after the mining period.

However, he also believes that a serious commitment from environmental authorities in the area – in this case the Cdmb – is necessary.

Delimitation for the Rest of the Páramos
The Vice Minister of the Environment, Pablo Vieira, stated that the process of the demarcating all of Colombia’s páramos is now underway.

“We are building a roadmap for the delimitation of the rest of the country’s páramos.  We have the foundation to construct this process, because we already have Igac mapping.  There are many páramos that are not tapped in any way, so they are very easy to demarcate; while others are complex.”

Vieira explained that in Antioquia they were able to delimitate three páramos relatively quickly.

He also said that the President of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos has committed to have all of the páramos ready at the end of 2016.

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The Greed for Gold Leaves New Craters Thu, 22 Oct 2015 20:02:17 +0000 Source:
(Translated by Haley Olig, a CSN Intern)

Colombia. The extraction of precious metal is put on standby as society now suspects water pollution and environmental disturbances.

Colombia is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, with a variety of ecosystems including desert, rain forest, tundra, mountain ranges and cloud forests.  It also has a tremendous cultural diversity, countless indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombian communities and, unlike its neighbor Venezuela, who has ostensibly become a land baron and oil company, many campesinos (farmers or peasants) who work the land and produce great quantities of food.

I took a peek at this reality on a trip we made to the state of Tolima, a few hours outside of Bogotá, in the west-center of the country, with the Grupo Permanente de Alternativas al Desarrollo (The Continuous Group for Alternatives to Development), which for five years has brought together forty intellectuals and activists from Latin America and Germany.  In Tolima we toured the towns of Ibagué, Piedras, Doima and Cajamarca, and chatted with residents who oppose La Colasa, an over ambitious mega-project which, upon construction, would be the fifth largest gold mine in the world, and rest in the hands of the company Anglo Gold Ashanti.  The crater of the mine would be in the Cajamarca municipality, considered “agricultural pantry of Colombia” for its importance in food production, from which vital water sources also stem.  This spurred farmers, housewives and college students to organize in Comités Ambientales en Defensa de la Vida (Environmental Committees in Defense of Life).

It was former President J. Manuel Santos who in 2010 launched the slogan  “la locomotora minera y energética” (“the mining and energy locomotive” that, according to Santos, would lead the country in economic development) and opened the country to one of the most questioned extractive activities in Latin America.  Colombia is not a large-scale mining country like Peru or Bolivia, but is still a land of diamonds and coal, with one of the largest coal mines in the world: El Cerrejón in La Guajira.  In recent years, in a context in which environmental regulations have been significantly relaxed, the South African company AngloGold Ashanti staged an enormous acquisition of mining titles that went virtually unseen by Colombian society. It is the third-largest multinational gold mining company worldwide and like its cousins ​​(the Canadian Barrick Gold, also a specialist in gold), has a long list of crimes ranging from water pollution in Ghana, to allegations of financing paramilitaries in the Congo.

In Piedras, a small rice village half an hour outside of Cajamarca, a possible location for the leaching plant (which mixes cyanide and water to separate the mineral), townspeople requested to follow “the example of Esquel”, as one of spokesmen said, referring to the first consultation on mega-mining held in Argentina in 2003. The 2013 consultation in Piedras was the first public consultation in Colombia and showed 98% of votes went against the construction of La Colosa.  Although it was brought to court by the government, the Supreme Court declared it constitutional. Thus, La Colosa became the emblematic conflict in Colombia surrounding extraction.

Mega-mining is not the only extractive conflict in the region. There is also the Master Plan of Development of the Río Magdalena, the country’s largest river, which begins in the mountains and has a length of 1500km. The grant is part of the policy called Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), which aims to make the river into a waterway for large ships to transport coal, oil, and palm oil for export. The other goal is to make the river a major energy source through the construction of several dams, many of them also serving mining projects. The fight against this huge privatization of the Magdalena River (into the hands of a Chinese company) led to a campaign by the name of “The River of Life”.

Noted writer William Ospina, a native of Padua, Tolima, who has accompanied the campaign, wrote: “The river is just one of the manifestations of water. To protect water here, defend water here is to totally defend the ecosystem of the entire territory and, to that extent, the world, are here in a particularly privileged place, and perhaps the place from which we must articulate to the world and for the world the discourse of water, so I think this is so important, because it cannot be perceived simply as a local struggle or provincial riverside fight to defend themselves from national forces that subjugate and want to overtake them, but it is the struggle of humanity to save the essence of their future, it is the fight to save this planet from its heralded and almost imminent collapse.”

On the trip we also shared informal conversations with youths and peasants of the Congreso de Los Pueblos (“Congress of the Towns”), a space officially launched in 2010, now with more than 17,000 delegates and 200 organizations. This movement of movements gathers indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, farmers, peace communities, neighborhood organizations, food sovereignty networks, and unions. Its defining characteristic is self-organization and their devotion defending the land, territory, sovereignty and the commitment to “peace with social justice”.

It is true that Colombia puts forth a tremendous and challenging scene: right-wing governments, an endless conflict where guerrillas, army and paramilitaries, involved in drug trafficking, dispute  lives, property and territory; 6 million internally displaced Colombians, peace agreements that never quite materialize, paint a picture unfavorable to new political horizons. But seen up close, Colombia is also a theater of eco-territorial struggles in defense of life, a country which makes way for and generates broad and innovative social and political movements that struggle for the construction of a plural and democratic left. In short, a scene that seems to insert the country into a new and rising cycle of struggles.

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