(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by John I. Laun)
Source : CENSAT, Aqua Viva
Author: Corporación para el Desarrollo del Oriente COMPROMISO
Location: San Vicente, Santander
MIGUEL ANGEL PABON PABON, 36 years old and father of two daughters, has worked as a dedicated and prominent environmentalist in the protection of the Sogamoso River and its fishing and farming communities. In 2007 he arrived at the Peaje Settlement in the municipality of Betulia, located near the construction site of the Sogamoso Hydroelectric Plant. It was here that he began the struggle, alongside the community for the rights to housing for the displaced peoples of the Middle Magdalena region, denouncing social, cultural, and environmental impacts, and the violation of the rights of local communities, by the hydroelectric dam construction company, Isagen. In 2008, with the collaboration of various community leaders, he formed the SOCIAL MOVEMENT IN PROTECTION OF THE SOGAMOSO RIVER; an organization that informed local communities of the harmful consequences of this hydroelectric dam. He has participated in marches and protests against Isagen, denounced the social and environmental consequences of the hydroelectric project on local farming and fishing communities, and described the terrible labor conditions for dam workers.
He participated in two public hearings on the Sogamoso hydroelectric dam as the community spokesperson and president of the board of the Peaje Settlement. He also participated prominently in a civil strike against Isagen on March 14 -16, 2011 in the hydroelectric work zone. The valiant efforts of both Miguel Pabon and local affected communities earned them a spot at the Isagen company table, where they were able to arrive at a 17-point agreement. The whole community still is waiting for compliance with this agreement.
MIGUEL ANGEL PABON PABON was part of the birth of the “Living Rivers” COLOMBIAN MOVEMENT IN DEFENSE OF TERRITORIES AND PEOPLES AFFECTED BY DAMS in 2011. He has traveled throughout other regions in Colombia where there are hydroelectric and dams in order to learn about their local impacts and the denunciations of the conditions by those who are affected by them. He went to visit the Asoquimbo dam in the department of Huila, where the Spanish company Endesa is constructing a hydroelectric plant. And he saw first-hand, the resistance movement of local farmers, fishermen, and small-scale miners against the construction of the hydroelectric dam Pescadero-Ituango by the EPM ( Empresas Publicas de Medellin).
Miguel, in his tireless fight for Housing Rights in 2011, accompanied the Vizcaina Baja settlement of the Lizama II sector in the municipality of San Vicente in establishing “Los Acacios”, a settlement comprised of 300 families from displaced communities, both those displaced by flooding of the Sogamoso River and indigenous communities from the Pacific Coast. He was able to obtain electric services for the settlement and was involved in efforts to obtain a community aqueduct. Los Acacios was given legal recognition in 2012.
Miguel Angel was last seen on Wednesday, October 31, 2012, while organizing and informing the community about an ecological and fumigation brigade due to a recent dengue outbreak. Since this day he has not returned. Members of these settlements, local farmers and fishermen, from the whole region who knew Miguel, have come together to form search groups; they have searched all areas nearby, including areas in the Sabana de Torres, San Vicente, Betulia and Barrancabermeja municipalities.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a depressing tragedy such as this has occurred to members, leaders, and defenders of community rights in this region. According to the Integral Peace Observatory, in 2012 there have been 11 disappeared people, six of whom were found dead. Since 2009, all of the murders of social leaders and associates in the Sogamoso river region remain in a state of impunity.
The following are a few of these cases:
• The murder of LUIS ARANGO, President of the Llanito Swamp’s Fishermen’s’ Association (Febuary 21, 2009)
• Murder of EVER CARDENAS, President of the Sand Workers’ Association of the Sogamoso River (May 15, 2009)
• Murder of MARCO TULIO SALAMANCA, President of the Marta Community Action Committee (September 3, 2009)
• Murder of HONORIO LLORENTE, President of the Puente Sogamoso Community Action Committee of the municipality of Puerto Wilches (October 17, 2009)
• Murder of JAIRO RODRIGUEZ CARO, member and leader of the Marta community (April 13, 2011)
Demand is made upon the Magdalena Medio Police, Attorney General’s Office, Public Ombudsman, and office of the Municipal Clerk of the municipality of San Vicente and other entities of public control, that they activate their mechanisms in order to prevent an even greater tragedy in this case; and we demand that MIGUEL ANGEL PABON PABON appear once again, healthy and safe.
(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited./La traducción puede reproducirse si se mantiene su contenido y la fuente, el autor , el traductor y editor se citan)