Oil Company and the Colombian Army Threaten Putumayo Communites

From: Secretaría Técnica Departamental
Date: Monday, 20 June, 2011

[Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN Volunteer Editor.]

Mocoa, June 15, 2011 The MESA DEPARTAMENTAL DE ORGANIZACIONES SOCIALES CAMPESINAS INDÍGENAS Y AFRODECENDIENTES DEL PUTUMAYO (Putumayo State Roundtable of Peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant Social Organizations) EXPRESSES ITS INDIGNATION and warns the competent institutions of State, the Colombian government and international human rights advocacy organizations of the serious situation in the sector comprising El Tigre, Guadualito and Alto Cuembí, in the jurisdictions of Valle del Guamués and Puerto Asís in Putumayo State.
BACKGROUND Since late 2010, peasant and indigenous communities living in the border zone in the sector from Puerto Vega to Teteyé have been opposing PROJECTS TO BUILD A HIGHWAY AND OIL PIPELINE RUNNING FROM THE QUILLACINGA WELL IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF PUERTO ASÍS TO THE EL TIGRE DISTRICT IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF VALLE DEL GUAMUÉS, which the CONSORCIO COLOMBIA ENERGY OIL COMPANY wants to impose with no consultation and using repression. The community has mobilized and proposed to meet the manager of the VETRA EXPLORACION Y PRODUCCION COLOMBIA SA company, which is a member of the consortium in the territory, to examine all aspects of this project and its possible effects on the community. So far the oil company has declined and the meeting has not taken place. The determined, dignified position of the community of Alto Cuembí, organized in ACSOMAYO, has led to a halt in the surveying activities being conducted abusively by the oil company, and a number of communities of Valle del Guamués, organized in SINTRACAP, have joined in supporting that position.
FACTS On 24 May 2011 the CONSORCIO COLOMBIA ENERGY oil company set up a camp in the village of Miraflores, in Guadualito district, with the intention of pressing ahead with surveying in order to open up the highway which would make it possible to build the oil pipeline running from Quillacinga in the municipality of Puerto Asís to El Tigre. Given that this project is in breach of the right to timely, effective participation, the community came out in number and demanded that the oil company workers leave the territory, because to date the community had not been duly consulted or heard. The oil company employees and the community agreed that the company would leave the area at ten o’clock the following morning. On May 25, 2011, at a quarter to ten in the morning, when the community began to arrive to check that the oil company had left, units of the Colombian NATIONAL ARMY arrived and, roughly reprimanding members of the community and asking why they were opposing construction of the highway. Some units of the National Army present in the zone threatened the community, warning it that if the peasants and indigenous people do not allow the highway to be built they will have to leave the region, because the highway is going to be built even if they have to displace the population to accomplish it. Members of the national army arrived asking for the president of the Miraflores village community action committee, LUIS RODRIGUEZ, who they asked to take the telephone to talk to a military commander who apparently needed to talk to him. The community opposed the proposal for the president of the community action committee to talk on the telephone. Finally, the community withdrew and so did the oil company employees. On June 8, 2011 at 8.00 a.m., three men with small arms arrived at the home of the president of the community action committee of Miraflores village, in El Tigre. When they failed to find the president, LUIS RODRIGUEZ, at home they went away, but some time later one single armed civilian returned and, finally, when they could not find him, they burned down a shack near his home. On June 14, at 1:00 p.m., an armed civilian arrived at the home of Hermes Rodriguez, brother of the president of Miraflores village community action committee and a member of the town council of the Embera Chami indigenous people of Argelia. Introducing himself as a soldier of the No. 13 Ranger Brigade, he detained, shut in and watched over the peasant from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Hermes Rodriguez was at home with his wife, who had just given birth). The armed civilian who arrived at the home of HERMES RODRIGUEZ and who introduced himself as a member of the army proceeded to steal from the brother of the president of Miraflores village community action committee his wallet with all his documents, among them his identity card and 500,000 pesos. Note that the zone has always been under military control. On June 14, 2011, the brother of the president of Miraflores village community action committee went out to file a complaint and met with an army roadblock where he explained the situation. There they told him to take his complaint wherever he liked, because it had not been them. On June 14, 2011, the brother of the president of Miraflores village community action committee filed his complaint with the public defender’s office in Valle del Guamués. Since June 13, 2011, the President of the Miraflores village community action committee has had to abandon his home because his life is in danger. When the CONSORCIO COLOMBIA ENERGY oil company was unable to get in through El Tigre, they went around and entered through Alto Cuembí, via Esmeralda village in the Municipality of Puerto Asís, where they met up with the ACSOMAYO community, which expressed its opposition to the project to construct a highway and oil pipeline until such time as the community was consulted and the social, environmental, cultural and public order impacts that the project will have on the region were analyzed. Added to this serious problem is the border dispute between the municipalities of Puerto Asís and Valle del Guamués.

In view of all the foregoing, we are demanding urgently: Of the Colombian government and particularly President of the Republic JUAN MANUEL SANTOS that they fulfill their constitutional duty of defending and protecting human rights in accordance with the principles of the constitution and the provisions of international treaties and covenants, and extend IMMEDIATE PROTECTION to the president of the Miraflores village community action committee and his family. We also demand that the Colombian national government and competent bodies of State offer guarantees that the peasant and indigenous leaders and communities in the whole Ecuador border tract will be protected and that our communities will remain in place and in peace in the territory. We also demand guaranteed protection for the indigenous communities of the border tract in keeping with the ministerial policy framework on protection of indigenous communities’ human rights, embodying the concept of human rights as a concept with special connotations as regards guarantees for the continued existence of collectivities, in dignity and autonomy, as integrally and essentially of a collective nature. We also hold THE COLOMBIAN NATIONAL ARMY AND THE CONSORCIO COLOMBIA ENERGY OIL COMPANY responsible for the life and physical safety of the president of the community action committee, his brother and all his family, as well as the leaders and members of the communities affected by the oil operations, as well as for the forced displacement of families or groups, if that should come to happen. We demand that the competent bodies of State and the Colombian government protect the victims and prevent the violations that are threatening their rights, and also take the measures necessary to investigate, identify, judge and sanction those responsible for them by action or omission, or to take corrective administrative and political measures to prevent such crimes from continuing to be committed. We demand that the Vice-presidency of the Republic meet urgently with the grassroots social organizations that come together in the State Roundtable in order to evaluate once and for all the agreements unfulfilled between 2006 and 2011 and take the necessary measures to solve the severe humanitarian crisis affecting Putumayo as a result of the militarization of the territory and the expansion of oil operations, which it is intended to carry out in breach of the fundamental rights of our indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant communities that hold ancestral title to the territory. We ask you to send your remarks to the following authorities: Presidencia de la República, carrera 8 #7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá D.C, Colombia. Fax (+57) (1) 5662071. Vice-presidencia de la República Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario, calle 7 #5-54, Bogotá D.C., Colombia. Tel.: (+57) (1) 3360311. Defensoría del Pueblo. Calle 55 #10-32, Bogotá D.C., Colombia. Tel: (+57) (1) 3147300. E-mail: secretaria_privada@hotmail.com Fiscalía General de la Nación, diagonal 22 b #52-01. Bogotá D.C., Colombia. Fax: (+57) (1) 5702000. E-mail: denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co
Please forward any documents filed and proceedings started on the basis of this information to the e-mail address: mesaconcocacolombia@yahoo.es
(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)

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