Moisés Varón, the Director of the USO Detained for Protesting Against Fracking in San Martín, Freed

(Translated by Deryn Collins, CSN Volunteer Translator)


 Esmad attacks the community that began the civil stoppage against fracking. Various people were injured and 9 community leaders were detained temporarily.

 With beatings and tear gas, an ESMAD police squadron attacked the community of San Martín, in the Department of Cesar, where a civil protest was held against the work that the multinational Conoco Phillips is going ahead with in the area, by means of fracking, a petroleum extraction technique that has grave consequences for public health, the environment, and bodies of water.

The aggressions by the ESMAD, which in the reports of the USO were said to be ‘brutal, were against more than 2,000 people who were demonstrating on Wednesday night against the fracking. This ended with various people injured, both men and women, as well as 9 community leaders being detained, amongst who was Moisés Varón Cárdenas, president of the Federation Union Funtramiexco (which is affiliated to the USO) and an active member of the mining, energy, and environment table that coordinated the protest. He was released a few hours ago as no Fiscal irregularities were found against him

Conoco Phillips is an American multinational specialized in the extraction of crude oil and gas through hydraulic fracking through rock, a technique which requires enormous amounts of water mixed with sand and more than 20 different chemicals. The work was going ahead for the exploitation, through fracking, of the Pico Plata Nº 1 well, located 8 kilometers from the main town of San Martin, where there are rivers and streams which could be contaminated or reduced in size.

Protest against fracking operations in San Martín is not new. Since the explorations work in the Pozo Pico well began at the start of the year, the community has been active in working against it, invoking article 79 of the National Constitution, which establishes that all Colombians have the right to benefit from a healthy environment, and the communities are guaranteed participation in decisions which affect them.

The Pozo Pico well is, according to Edwin Castaño, director of Communications of the USO, a kind of Fracking test laboratory in Colombia. Here is where most advances have been made in the technique, because in the region of Catatumbo and in San Vicente de Chucurí, Magdalena Medio, there are already blocks of petroleum companies endorsed to use fracking, among which is the national Ecopetrol. Also the economic contribution to the country is ridiculously low.

“The income from petroleum, as it is understood in the contract with Conoco Phillips, is completely unfavourable. Whilst the multinational gets 98%, the country only gets 2%.  This is an assault on national interests, amounting to delays for the people, impeding the development and well being for the people of San Martin. We say yes to petroleum, but not like this,” asserts Edwin Castaño.

Moreover, the Government of Santos is accused of not being coherent or ethical in what it preaches, that the time that is needed to reach a peace agreement with the FARC and organize talks with the ELN to look for a negotiated solution in the armed conflict, giving a hostile treatment to the communities that defend their territories from the devastating politics of extraction that they are trying to impose by using fracking, a technology that because of the damage it causes is not permitted in some countries of the EU and in Latin-American, and which the Unión Sindical Obrera has serious objections to.

Precisely, in a communication made public yesterday, this union asked for a moratorium on fracking and a national and regional discussion around the convenience and its use in Colombia, the time that the denunciations against Esmad riding roughshod over the protests from the community of  San Martin, and the detention of Moisés Varón.

The Civil Stoppage in San Martin

The first mobilisation against the use of fracking in San Martín was on March 17th of this year, another took place on April 17th and a third on September 25th. The protests included “cacerolazos”, (the people make lots of noise banging saucepans, a common act of protest), white t-shirts and many mobilizations, lead by the Corporación Defensora del Agua, Territorio y Ecosistemas (Cordatec), the USO, Funtramiexco, and other social and environmental groups.

Before the resolve of the Mayor’s office in the locality and the government department, in the sense of prohibiting protest and demonstration, in a citizen’s assembly held on October 19th in the main plaza of San Martín, the townsfolk declared it was a ‘civic rebellion’ and decided that since October 25th there would be a civic stoppage with a peaceful, civilized and democratic character against which the public force attacked them on the Wednesday night, resulting in injuries and detentions.

In the petition, the community of San Martín asked that the National Government prohibit fracking in the region of César and consequently suspend all activity in the Pozo Pico Well; open a democratic debate based on scientific studies, with the end being to determine the impacts and consequences of the use of fracking in Colombia; and that civil servants referring to the Major of the area, among others who are not prepared to support the interests of the people should step aside.

At the same time, it was asked that there be an investigation into a series of anonymous pamphlets which point to and threaten the members of Cordatec and other community leaders who oppose fracking, and request the protection and accompaniment of the Public Defenders and international organizations who defend Human Rights

Published 28th October 2016

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.