Colombian military has 200 cooperation agreements with corporations, including Toronto-based Frontera Energy

Published by Brent Patterson on

On May 3, the Comisión de Justicia y Paz (an organization accompanied by the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project) tweeted a July 2019 article about cooperation agreements between the Colombian military and energy-mining corporations.

The article, titled Oil and mining companies finance the Public Force and the Prosecutor’s Office, notes that there are more than 200 such agreements.

The article reports:

“After reviewing 200 cooperation agreements, Rutas del Conflicto [Routes of Conflict] and La Liga Contra el Silencio [The League Against Silence] found questionable aspects in the way companies deliver money to the Military and Police. Resolution 5342 of 2014 of the Ministry of Defense warns that collaboration agreements between private and state are only possible when they favor national security.”

“However, the documents available in this database show that the money was invested in activities that are not directly related to protecting the territory, nor to national security, nor to the actions of the company stipulated in the objects of the 200 agreements.”

“In Colombia, more than 70 national and international companies, mainly in the mining-energy sector, celebrate cooperation agreements with public institutions such as the Ministry of Defense, made up of the Military Forces; with the Police and even with the Attorney General’s Office.”

“These agreements have existed since 1996 but were only regulated by the Ministry of Defense in 2014, through resolution 5342.”

“The lawyer for the José Alvear Restrepo Collective, Rosa María Mateus [an organization also accompanied by PBI-Colombia, is] concerned about aspects of these agreements that may lead to the violation of human rights.”

“Environmental and union activists from territories where there are agreements in force, such as Meta and Casanare, say they have been victims of abuse of force and persecution by the security forces. In addition, social leaders have been prosecuted as alleged terrorists, after criticizing the companies’ actions.”

“The hydrocarbons sector also welcomes the agreements. In 2013, Alejandro Martínez, from the Colombian Petroleum Association, stated that ‘the oil sector looked with great satisfaction at these agreements because better conditions of public order and security are being reached for the industry, which the country has today to accelerate their economic development’.”

“Although Colombian law establishes that all contracting with state entities must be public through the Electronic System for Public Procurement (Secop), accessing the documentation on these agreements is a difficult task. To search for an agreement in the Secop, it is necessary to have the filing number, a data that can only be found in the same agreement. Added to this difficulty is that the navigation of the web tool is not user-friendly, and that these documents have a degree of confidentiality and secrecy given by the Ministry of Defense.”

“To contribute to the transparency of public information, Routes of Conflict and The League Against Silence developed the project ‘ Agreements of Force and Justice’, a tool that seeks to offer organized and detailed information on these collaboration agreements, the municipalities where they are in force and the companies involved.”

That interactive tool can be found here.

While not mentioned in the article, the now former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, has raised the matter of an agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Toronto-based Frontera Energy concerning its operations in San Luis de Palenque, Casanare.

Forst’s report noted (on page 9, points 29 and 30), “Social protests [took place] between 2016 and 2018 in response to the failure of Canadian public company Frontera Energy to fulfil its obligation to compensate communities affected by environmental damage and to repair damaged roads.”

It then highlights, “In November 2018, Frontera Energy signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US$1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities.”

El Espectador has reported, “On November 27, 2018, at 2:45 in the morning, an operation of 200 men, between members of the Police and the National Army, who landed in two helicopters, captured [eight social leaders who raised concerns about Frontera Energy] in San Luis de Palenque.”

Forst notes that on December 4, 2018, the army and the police accused the aforementioned leaders of being members of an illegal armed group.

PBI-Colombia and PBI-Canada are organizing a series of meetings on this situation with Alexandra González Zapata from the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) and Fabian Laverde from the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COSPACC).

Both the CSPP and COSPACC have raised concerns about this situation including with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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