The Awry Steps of Gas Natural Union Fenosa in Colombia: Chronicle of an intervention foretold

(Translated by Colin Kluender, CSN Volunteer Translator- Edited by Shanise Faust)

In a timely fashion the Colombian government decided to take control of ELECTRICARIBE, 85% of which belongs to the “Spanish” Gas Natural Fenosa, an irresponsible multinational that offers terrible electrical service at unpayable costs for the Caribbean population of Colombia. This is one of the poorest regions in the country, yet last year its inhabitants experienced their electrical energy tariff increase by 43%. Unfortunately, the government is intervening in order to administer the company, and to pay with money from Colombian citizens its debts with suppliers, rather than to expropriate the business and throw them out of the country as they deserve. Their merits are well-known:

Terrible service. For almost twenty years ELECTRICARIBE (read: Gas Natural Fenosa) has failed to fulfill their commitment to make the investments necessary in order to improve their electrical service, one of the worst in the country: frequent and inopportune blackouts or outages in homes and companies, overloads that burn household electrical devices, unpayable invoices for families in poverty, mistreatment of the clients who have come protesting their expensive and terrible service for years, in cities like Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Martha, Sincelejo, Montería, River Hacha and Valledupar. Many of those leading meetings that call for communal action are persecuted, threatened with death, and at least 11 have been assassinated for protesting and denouncing the company. The police and the national army are dedicated to taking care of the multinational, who at the beginning of August this year, in their international platform, made demands to Colombia, citing the “International agreement of reciprocal investments between Spain and Colombia”, looking for a compensation of millions of dollars, under the argument that the problems in the service that fall under their responsibility are, in actuality, the fault of Colombia.

Thus we have GAS NATURAL FENOSA failing to fulfill the contracts subscribed with Colombia, literally robbing Caribbean families and companies…and exploiting their workers.

Gas Natural Fenosa entered Colombia while trampling on – without scruples – a pool of working blood, so it is not so strange that it continues applying an antiunion policy. Gas Natural Fenosa is a direct beneficiary of the union genocide that has cost the National Colombian Union of Electrical Energy Workers, SINTRAELECOL, more than 60 leaders, assassinated for opposing the privatization of public companies in the electrical sector. The 20th of October, 1998, as a member of the Workers Unions’ National Strike Commando, I took leave of the seat belonging to my companion JORGE ORTEGA GARCIA, a seat in the Federation of Educators. We were 13 unionists directing the strike for a half million workers of the State; it lasted 15 days, each day requiring more force, as it began to extend to both the private industrial sector as well as the rural regions. JORGE ORTEGA was a leader of SINTRAELECOL in the Caribbean, denouncing the privatization of State electrical companies. He had already been threatened with death by the paramilitaries and members of the Colombian army. At dusk of that day they caught him arriving at his house. He had the position as First Vice President of the Central Workers’ Organization (CUT). His murder forced half of those who integrated the Workers Unions’ National Strike Commando to flee to Bogotá, to hide themselves in order to save their lives, but a dozen of them were killed in that strike against the privatization of sectors of the bank, energy, petroleum, education, aqueducts, sewage systems, garbage collection, health, telecommunications, mines and territories of the State, agrarian reform, etc.

FENOSA SENDS MORTAL SIGNALS. It’s very serious that the denunciations presented by CUT Bolivar before the Colombian judicial system have never been investigated. They were presented a document 26 pages in length, which was made by civil employees of the company and sent to SINTRAELECOL leaders, accusing them, by name, of being guerrilla. And the antiunion persecution does not stop there: a year ago the company dismissed in an illegal manner the President and Vice President of SINTRAELECOL, HERNAN RANGEL LOPEZ and JULIO VERGARA CONTRERAS, members of the Statutory Commission of the CUT Bolivar Subdirective, union leaders that had been threatened with death.

As CUT Bolivar denounced: “On pages 5 and 6 of the 26-page document it is claimed that 65% of the 450 thousand affiliates of the Central Workers’ Organization (CUT) are of the extreme left, EPL 5%, ELN 30%, FARC 15%, an official document of Union FENOSA that answers many questions of murders, threats, kidnappings, exiles of workers, union leaders and members of their families, ever since this multinational arrived in Colombia in the year 2000. We are convinced that these scorched-earth policies are summarized in the 26 pages of the confidential document, and have contributed to the fact that as of today the CUT has more than 4,000 assassinated affiliates, others exiled, and others that survive through protection by security.”

Union Fenosa tramples the rights of the Córdoba town Embera Katio. The company benefitted from serious attacks against these natives, who were opposed to the construction of the Urrá dam on the Sinú river. Several natives, among them authorities of Embera Katio such as ALONSO and LUCINDO DOMICÓ, were assassinated for opposing the hydroelectric operation.  KIMY PERNIA DOMICÓ – recognized as sage by UNESCO – occupied the offices next to his town of INCORA, in Montería, as well as the Swedish Embassy and the Bogotá Ministry of the Environment. He unfurled an act of international denouncement in defense of his territory and its ancestral river, due to the terror unleashed solely for the benefit of these multinationals. And when he saw that the company failed to compromise, he organized an immensely sad caravan of a thousand Indians, who in canoes traveled down the river for the last time, singing “Do Wa bura,” or, “Good bye river!” Later, on June 2nd, 2001, he was detained, then disappeared, and then assassinated. It seems that his remains were thrown into the Sinú river by paramilitaries of SALVATORE MANCUSO and BROWN CARLOS, neighboring large estate owners of ex-president ALVARO URIBE VÉLEZ, who today speaks in the name of the “victims” in order to sabotage the peace negotiated with FARC, and to avoid returning land that had been stolen from rural workers, Indians, and blacks of those regions through means of enormous violence, in order to benefit this multinational as well as the drug trafficking, large estate owners of the Caribbean.

Companies like GAS NATURAL-FENOSA that benefit from the terror in Colombia are examples of the necro-Capitalism that accumulates gains by means of violent plunder, corruption, and inefficiency. These companies are additionally co-responsible for the energetic poverty that continues to advance throughout the impoverished Spanish population, provided with light at unpayable costs by thermal plants that generate electricity by burning coal, imported at great human and environmental cost…Imported from where? From Colombia!

GAS NATURAL – FENOSA had to take advantage of the intervention by the Colombian government, and hear the invitation by millions of coastal inhabitants, shouting, asking for them to leave the country because they do not respect ethnic and environmental rights, nor the rights of humans, laborers, or unions. But I am afraid that their plans are to continue getting rich off of their bad service, and to wait for a compensation from the Colombian State of millions of dollars, still claiming that the Colombians will not pay.

This is the only thief who shouts ‘They’re robbing me!’, with his hands placed in the pockets of his clients, and yet still does not leave. “I never saw that” an Asturian would say.

By Javier Orozco Peñaranda


(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)

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