By Jéssica Paola Arias Higuita, RCN Radio, May 21, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Council of State, at a second application, rejected the civil rights action filed by the former Salento Council member, Orfa Liliana Correa, appealing the decision by the Quindío Administrative Tribunal that denied approval of a proposed agreement that would have protected the cultural, environmental, and coffee-producing heritage of the municipality from mining activities.

Orfa Liliana Correa, a former Council member and promoter of the plan, stated that “on May 14 we received the Council of State decision on the contested administrative proceedings document that denied the protection of the civil rights action we filed against the tribunal that had rejected the municipal agreement that would have prohibited mining activity in Salento.

She explained that, “the decision indicates that municipal councils do not have jurisdiction or autonomy to carry out such agreements. This could be evidence of a legal limbo in Colombia’s constitution, which allows certain things and yet where it counts, the concept is otherwise.”

The leaders of the plan, Orfa Liliana Correa and Jaime Arias, expressed their concern about the current economic and health emergency that the country is experiencing because of the coronavirus, since the possibility of reactivating some sectors would give free rein to the mining multinationals to move into the land that is the origin of the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree.

“I am really worried about what might happen in Salento because they are giving permission to big businesses to keep on exploiting the land,” the former Council member emphasized.

Jaime Arias, president of Salento’s municipal council, pointed out that “we will continue the struggle to try to do what we can do within the constitution to avoid the entrance of the big companies that are trying to exploit gold and other minerals.”

The decision document is being analyzed by a group of lawyers in the Salento Environmental Committee and others who are looking for solutions to the new problem that is arising in the defense of the land.

The former Council member stated that the municipality has 21 applications for mining exploitation and 17 permits have already been issued, so that this decision in the second application continues the vulnerability of its ecosystem and biodiversity.

Seventy percent of the population of Quindío depends on the Municipality of Salento for its water supply, so the news from the Council of State is generating worry in a number of sectors.

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