Don’t Have Us Killed for Defending the Water of Caquetá


(Translated by Peter Lenny, CSN Volunteer Translator)

By:* | August 17, 2016
Rural workers from the area report that they were driven off by army gunfire for preventing Petroseimic from moving in.
“And what about Amazon biodiversity?!” That was the anguished cry to the media from acknowledged rural leader, José Antonio Saldarriaga, in Lusitania, a rural area of Valparaíso district, when (on the orders of a sergeant) they were driven away by army gunfire, because they were blocking the road against, Petroseismic, a firm doing seismology studies for oil companies in the area. The gunfire left one rural worker, Wilson Váquiro, shot in the back. The bullet perforated his colon and, as a result, he is in intensive care at María Inmaculada Hospital in Florencia, where they have not yet managed to extract the bullet.

Resistance to the presence of oil companies in Caquetá is taking an alarmingly violent turn. Now one rural worker is in intensive care following an alleged attack by the army in the Lusitania rural area to clear a rural workers’ roadblock set up to prevent equipment and workers of the company Petroseismic from passing. But that is just one more link in the somber chain of events taking place over much of Caquetá.

In the municipalities of El Paujil and El Doncello, the climate is extremely tense after Petroseismic cables were burned (allegedly by rural workers) and as yet unidentified hooded men set fire to a private pickup. These events sounded the alarm to the north of the province, obliging the Mayoress Sandra Milena Lozada Floriano, of El Doncello, to send out a distress call to the national government to set up a high level commission to visit Caquetá to propose solutions to the serious problems that have arisen.

In view of the El Paujil rural community’s complaints that the authorities are denying their right to free assembly, members of the state congress, Arturo Mayorga, Reinaldo Castrillón and Angélica María Henao, accompanied by town councillors from El Paujil, visited the location where the army was preventing free assembly, on the grounds that Petroseismic has cables on the highway and the local people disconnect them. This proves – argue the rural community leaders – that it is true that the authorities are protecting the interests of the multinationals instead of protecting Colombian lives and honor.

In addition to a high-level commission, the mayoress of El Doncello has officially requested a public consultation to decide whether the community wants oil drilling there or not. Meanwhile, the mayor of Belén de los Andaquíes has declared that his municipality is legally secure against the oil companies, because for many years a large part of its territory has been declared forest reserve, including one part spreading over 27,000 hectares, which borders on El Huila. There is also a state law proclaiming his municipality “Protector of Water”.

On the local radio stations that allow community participation, people are massively in favor of rural civil resistance and are asking Governor Alvaro Pacheco Álvarez to come out in favour of the laborers even if that means giving up the cherry on the cake: royalties. Better to have water and life than oil in the desert, the locals say. They are also asking the representatives of Caquetá to take the people’s side and defend them.

Caquetá has always suffered the scourge of centralism and the interests of the multinationals. That is how it was last century with rubber and quinine, which decimated whole tribes without pity. In the 1950s, Caquetá took in thousands and thousands of settlers fleeing from the violence in the interior. It braved the war with the M-19, including an attempt to take its capital city. It endured the terrible war with the FARC, which cost the best of its youth, including two governors, three members of parliament, mayors, town councillors and members of the state congress.

Caquetá, I repeat, is on the threshold of a new wave of violence, the violence the State itself is perpetrating against rural working people for defending land and water, while the State protects its economic interests and those of the oil multinationals. As has already happened in other parts of Colombia, this will turn Caquetá into a yet another desert.

“Don’t have us killed” is a cry of anguish that the national government has to hear.

*Regional portal in the alliance with Las2Orillas



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