PBI arranges virtual meeting between Colombian activists and Canadian civil society

Published by Brent Patterson on

Peace Brigades International is organizing a virtual meeting in early-June with Alexandra González Zapata from the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP), Fabian Laverde from the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COSPACC) and civil society allies based in Canada and Quebec.

On May 7, PBI also organized a conference call with Alexandra and Fabian with representatives from Global Affairs Canada and the Embassy of Canada to Colombia.

This is an opportunity for the CSPP and COSPACC to share information about the tensions between Toronto-based Frontera Energy and the community of San Luis de Palenque, Casanare, Colombia that culminated in the criminalization and arrest of eight community leaders on November 27, 2018.

Earlier this year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst noted this situation in his report to the Human Rights Council.

Forst’s report stated (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.”

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

The concern has been expressed that cooperation agreements between the state and companies essentially mean that the state security forces are acting as private security for the oil companies against the rights and interests of community members.

Peace Brigades International has accompanied the CSPP since 1998 and COSPACC since 2009 and will continue to monitor the situation in San Luis de Palenque.

Photos: 1) A November 12, 2018 protest in San Luis de Palenque against Frontera Energy, about two weeks prior to the arrest of community leaders, published by the newspaper Las Chivas. 2) A December 14, 2018 protest in San Luis de Palenque demanding the release of the eight social leaders arrested on November 27, 2018.

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