(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN  volunteer translator)

Colombian government contracts with Drummond Corporation, Glencore and the transnational Cerrejón consortium must be renegotiated because they contain ³lion¹s share² clauses highly damaging to Colombian national interests. This demand was voiced by Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo at the public hearing ³Coal, Mining and Energy² (Carbón, Minería y Energía), called by the Fifth Senate Commission and held today at the National Capitol. Robledo also called for no new contracts to be signed with these foreign mining concerns until Colombian agencies can quantify the enormous damage done to Colombia over recent decades at the Cerrejón Zona Norte complex and the El Paso and La Jagua de Ibirico mines.

Robledo, spokesman for the Polo Democrático Alternativo caucus in the Senate denounced changes made to Colombian law that leave all mining, hydrocarbons and energy in the hands of foreign capital. This is of the utmost importance, given that this sector earns half of Colombia¹s export revenues ­ or US$ 9,420 million in 2005.

What is left to Colombia of its own non-renewable wealth? That question is crucial, says Robledo, because what you see in La Guajira and at El Cesar is abject poverty. According to a Universidad Nacional study, Colombia¹s 50.64% state take from oil is the lowest anywhere in the world. He also called attention to the reduction on coal royalties, from 15% to 5 and 10%, drastically cheapening this valuable resource, while gold royalties are a meager 4%. Surface and subsoil riches are being given away to foreign consortiums, because the tax actually charged to major mining concerns, once the exemptions are discounted, is less than 5%, according to the higher education and development foundation, Fedesarrollo. Some cases are just outrageous, reports Senator Robledo, including the national tax and customs authority¹s reimbursing 259,000 million pesos in value added tax to Drummond.

He promised that the Fifth Commission will scrutinize thoroughly the case of Cerrejón Zona Norte, which was sold at a loss to three multinational corporations, today partners in the business. Robledo also highlighted the abysmal health and safety conditions in large-scale coal mining, the frequent labor accidents and the disastrous system of labor outsourcing to avoid paying benefits and keep wages low.

He reported that, after 38 years serving Exxon, Hernán Martínez¹ first act as Minister of Mines was to propose the privatization of the state oil enterprise, Ecopetrol. ³Dr. Hernán Martínez is not Colombia¹s Minister of Mines, but Foreign Capital¹s Minister of Mines².

Robledo concluded by stating that he will continue in the breach to defend the national interest. ³This is a democratic political and economic battle and I call on Colombians of all persuasions to join me so that together we can save Colombia. The problem is not that we are doing business with foreign capital, but that we are doing business against the national interest², he ended.

If you would like to hear Senator Robledo¹s speech, please use this link:
Que se renegocien los contratos con las trasnacionales de la gran minería <;ts=7d91ad627a00faa683096adf6355d55a&amp;PHPSESSID=d2060665a3e28ad93eb9bb13a6d5d394>

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