Megaprojects of mining/energy development and industrial agriculture are part of the armed conflict

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer transaltor )
Source : Living Rivers

August 20, 2014
A position paper and proposals by the Movement in Defense of our Territories and People Affected by Dams (RIOS VIVOS COLOMBIA [LIVING RIVERS COLOMBIA—SC]), for the Discussion Table in Havana, Cuba, related to the declaration of principles for the discussion of point five of the “Victims” agenda.
Nature has also been a victim of the armed conflict in Colombia; innumerable forests devastated, and contaminated water, air and soil are proof of that.
In Colombia, violations because of the armed conflict and because of the implementation of mega-projects coexist in the same areas. These situations have left the communities and their territories in a state of extreme vulnerability. On one hand, the companies benefit from this state of vulnerability, which facilitates the implementation of their mega-projects; they use the armed conflict as an excuse, which makes it difficult to establish who is really responsible for the victimizations and victims of the mega-projects. And on the other hand they use armed violence to execute the projects, they contract armies; they pay for the construction of military bases, which converts them into another armed actor in the internal conflict. The armed confrontation has ended up being functional for economic and political interests who press for the uprooting of the civilian population from their land and territory. All of this happens within a context of generalized violence and of the imposition of the extractive industry model.
We see the possibilities of winning the truth and guarantees that this will not be repeated being cut up by the construction of dams, even in the face of the scenario of a post-agreement with the FARC. The devastated land is the scene of crimes against humanity, where the footprints of the armed conflict are still found. These scenes are being destroyed and flooded; a concrete case is the destruction and flooding of mass graves and cemeteries, the thousands of bodies dumped into the rivers, and the alarming figures of forced displacement in this country. The dams and large-scale mining generate forced displacement, although the peace dialogues might move forward and happily arrive at an agreement. We face the existence of around 100 mega-projects of dams and thousands of mining concessions and titles in the country, which are destroying, contaminating, privatizing and drying up the main sources of water. There will NOT be GUARANTEES THAT THIS IS NOT REPEATED.
About recognizing the human and non-human victims
In general, the conflicts, impacts and environmental damage caused by the big dams have been broadly documented. In the year 2000, the World Commission on Dams (WCD) concluded that, “big dams in general produce a series of violent impacts…[that] are more negative than positive and, in many cases, have led to the irreversible loss of species and ecosystems.” The WCD recognized that many of the arguments that the promoters of dams use are NOT real or are overestimated. Further, they concluded that mitigation measures have NOT been sufficient to counteract the impacts on people and ecosystems, and even more that many times the commitments taken on by the dam construction companies for reparations, compensation and mitigation of the damages to the affected communities and ecosystems are not carried out.
The foregoing situations are in evidence in all the hydroelectric complexes built in Colombia. We’ll highlight the case of Salvajina in the department of Cauca, where, despite having agreed on compromises with the construction companies, the communities are still demanding that the agreements signed in 1986 be carried out. On the other hand, the conflicts of economic and political interests over territory for the construction of dams coexist with the armed conflict’s escalating in the same places. In Colombia, people who have expressed their opposition to the dams have been murdered, in crimes that until now have remained in absolute impunity: Luis Arango, Herbert Cardenas, Marco Tulio Salamanca, Honorio Llorente, Jairo Rodriguez Caro, Miguel Angel Pabon Pabon, opponents and persona affected by the Hidrosogamoso dam, owned by ISAGEN, Kimy Pernia, Lucindo Domico y Alberto Alzate, opponents and persons affected by the Urrá I dam; Nelson Giraldo y Robinson David Mazo, opponents and persons affected by the Hidroituango dam, property of the departmental government of Antioquia and the EPM company. We must also remember the systematic murder of more than a dozen personas in Antioquia in the decade of the seventies, opponents of the El Peñol reservoir. Similarly, there were murders of people of the Black communities during the process of building the Salvajina dam in Cauca.
In addition, the people affected by dams also have been victims of legal processes, criminalization of protest, persecution and attacks, which have caused psychological and physical problems. The majority of the evictions from the land are carried out by means of violence. The companies use the police, the mobile anti-riot squad (ESMAD), and even the army to displace and uproot communities from their territories. They lose their good and tools, ending up in absolute poverty. Protests have been brutally repressed. Mr. Luis Carlos Trujillo Obregón, a victim of the El Quimbo project lost his right eye from a stun grenade; about 80 victims of Hidroituango were arrested and 11 tried to prevent a protest against it. The majority of the opposition leaders have had threats, persecution, accusations; one suffered an attack and another one was tortured.
In most of the cases of evictions from the land, they have been carried out without fulfilling the guidelines of the United Nations for evictions for development projects, and without fulfilling what was ordered by the Constitutional Court in their decisions, such as T-135, T-198, T-652 among others.
We also consider it extreme violence and irrationality that entire communities are exposed to a situation of high risk because of their location in relation to the project, because of the loss of food security, and loss of water and quality of life, as in the cases of the community of La Playa because if the Hidrosogamoso project and the community of La Habana en the east of Caldas. For four and half years the relocation of both has been expected; this are situations generated by the ISAGEN company.
The affected and victims
The victims are those people whose rights have been violated. In this sense the Movimiento Ríos Vivos Colombia [Living Rivers Colombia Movement—SC] has documented the violation of more than 32 rights of the communities affected by dams in Colombia, including the right to life and physical security. In the context of the armed conflict, it has been used to mask the violations and those truly responsible. That is to say, the armed conflict has been used as an excuse for the violations that the multinationals and other promoters of mega-projects in this country have been committing. That is why it is not possible to separate the victims generated by one or another phenomenon, given their tight relationship.
The victims of dams and other mega-projects in this country also arise because of the presence of armed groups in their territories. The direct relationship between mega-projects and the increased presence of armed groups in the territories has been demonstrated. In the majority of cases, where a mega-project is located, more police stations are built and army battalions are located, with the exclusive mission of guaranteeing security for the companies and projects (paid for by the companies and with close cooperation and coordination of military actions), private security companies are contracted which provide their services with armed personnel. Both (private and public actors) intimidate and attack the local communities, especially communities affected by the mega-projects. What also takes place is that illegal armed groups, especially paramilitaries and assassins, either appear or escalate their actions; the murders and intimidations suffered by the communities that organize to defend their rights are attributed to them.
The foregoing phenomena convert the mega-projects and their promoters into actors in the conflict, given that their methods and procedures generate violations of rights, and therefore, victims of the mega-projects within a complex context that tends to become blurred into the existing armed conflict in the territories. That is to say, they make up part of the armed actions within the framework of the generalized violence that the communities of a given territory live through. On the other hand, the economic relationships between multinationals and illegal armed actors must also be a subject for analysis, especially because of their cooperation with the paramilitaries. This is the case with the US company Chiquita Brands, since it is clear that if the mega-project did not exist, the methods of war and intimidation would not be applied, nor would victims appear in those cases.
For these and other reasons, it is necessary and urgent for our country to clarify the economic and military relationships between:
• Multinationals and other promoters of mega-projects in Colombia and the Armed Forces of Colombia, Police and Army.
• Multinationals and other promoters of mega-projects in Colombia and the illegal armed actors—paramilitaries and guerrillas.
Nature as a victim of the armed conflict in Colombia
In the military development of the armed conflict in Colombia, armed clashes have been constant, mainly in the countryside, in the woods and forests, with bombings, planting of anti-personnel mines, the use of explosives of different levels, construction of military bases and camps, fumigations of illegal crops, blowing up of oil pipelines, blowing up of electric towers, increases in military vehicles, airplanes, helicopters, and increases in troops, all of which have caused great damage to ecosystems or public and common goods, such as:
• Disappearance and loss of fauna and flora species, some of them endemic, in many areas of the country.
• Destruction of woods and forests.
• Contamination of water sources and soil. Auditory contamination and visual contamination.
• Confinement of water sources, woods, land.
• Migration of species because of the destruction or contamination of their habitats.
• Damage to the heath of wildlife and plants.
• Heavy impacts in the landscape, destruction of dwellings, roads and paths.
Proposals: Recognition of the following victims and actors in the conflict
• Victims of mega-projects
• Victims of development
• Nature as a victim of the armed conflict in Colombia
• The Multinationals and other promoters of mega-projects in Colombia as actors in the armed conflict in Colombia
Clarifying the truth and guarantees not to repeat
The impacts, damages and conflicts generated by the construction of dams and the generation and transmission of energy in Colombia have a strict relationship with the memories of pain and blood that have darkened the tranquility of the rural areas of Colombia. Many of the rivers where large and small hydroelectric projects are currently being constructed have been converted in different periods into rivers of blood in which hundreds of Colombian men and women were thrown after suffering torture and being murdered by the illegal armed groups; according to testimony by people who live by the rivers, many of those victims were taken from the rivers and buried in their banks in order to give them a “Christian burial,” in accordance with their cultures and beliefs. However, the families’ right to the truth will be compromised if the destruction and flooding of land and territories continues.
Proposals: A moratorium on mining/energy projects in order to guarantee the rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees that this will not be repeated. With respect to the rights of the victims in Colombia no project within the country will be allowed to destroy, damage or flood until the mass graves and the bodies of thousands of the disappeared that there are in this country have been found, until potable water is assured for all the communities, until the rights of the victims of the mega-projects have been restored.
The Movimiento Ríos Vivos proposes the creation of a National Dams Commission which would be charged with studying and following up projects already built or being built, in order to establish the truth about what has happened in the territories, the relationships between the dams and the armed conflict. It would install guidelines for making decisions about new dam projects in relation to environmental, technical, social, cultural and economic issues. While the work of this commission moves forward, licenses or environmental authorizations should not be given for the construction of projects, and the results or guidelines of the commission should be adopted through laws or en the public policy of the national government.
The Movimiento Ríos Vivos proposes the creation of an Environmental Truth Commission which would establish what the damage is that the armed conflict and its actors have generated in nature, and would generate guidelines for repairing them and guarantees that these things would not be repeated in environmental terms.
Water for life, not for death!

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