Colombian human rights defender Jani Silva defends communities impacted by oil operations in Putumayo
The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has noted: “Jani Silva is the leader of the Peasant Reserve Zone- Perla Amazónica (ZRCPA) and legal representative of the Association for the Sustainable and Comprehensive Development of the Perla Amazónica (ADISPA), which promotes peace [and] environmental protections.”
PBI-Nederland has noted: “Her work involves defending the human and environmental rights of communities affected by the operations of oil companies in the area.”
And The Guardian has reported: “Community leader Silva says she has seen firsthand the effects of big business in Putumayo, where, she believes, oil companies ‘exploit irresponsibly’ and contaminate the environment despite legal protection granted by courts to the Amazon peasant farmer reserve zone.”
Amerisur/GeoPark partnerships with Canadian companies
Amnesty International has noted: “She has also denounced the socio-environmental effects of oil operations, including those of Amerisur. Amerisur is a hydrocarbon exploitation company operating mainly in Putumayo basins [whose partners have included] Canacol Energy Ltd. (Canada) [and] Pacific Exploration & Production (Frontera Energy, Canada).”
In November 2019, GeoPark purchased Amerisur.
This December 2019 GeoPark statement on new acquisitions in Colombia notes: “GeoPark will further expand its position of more than two million gross acres in the Putumayo basin, with existing production, a nearby dedicated cost-effective transportation solution with spare capacity and significant exploration potential.”
Canadian oil operations in Putumayo
Toronto-based Frontera Energy, Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. and Calgary-based Gran Tierra Energy Inc. all appear to have some involvement in the Putumayo region.
In this August 2019 interview, Richard Herbert, the CEO of Frontera Energy in Colombia, stated that Frontera has an increased production contract with Ecopetrol in the Orito field in Caguán, Putumayo basin. The Canacol Energy Ltd. website also suggests that Canacol is involved in the Capella oil field in the Caguan-Putumayo basin.
And this statement from Calgary-based Gran Tierra Energy Inc. highlights: “Highly strategic acquisition further strengthens and consolidates Gran Tierra’s position as the premier operator and top landholder in the Putumayo Basin, and makes the Company the operator of 100% of its Putumayo Blocks.”
This Oil Channel interview with a Gran Tierra executive further notes that the company holds 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares) in contracts with the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) to develop in Putumayo.
For further historical context, this 2004 article in Canadian Dimension magazine notes: Canada a big player in Putomayo’s oil operations.
Indigenous resistance to oil operations on their territories
The American business magazine Forbes has reported: “Nearly a third of Colombia is designated indigenous territory… Often, that land sits atop natural riches that have made it the envy of prospectors. Conflicts abound in Colombia between indigenous communities and extractive industries clawing for oil, gold or lumber.”
That article further notes that 37 petroleum production contracts awarded by the National Hydrocarbon Agency in 2019 infringed on 81 indigenous reserves, another 26 of which were violated by exploration contracts.
In October 2019, this PBI-Canada article noted that grandparents from seven Indigenous communities of Putumayo, Caquetá, Amazonas, Boyacá and Venezuela (including members of the Siona, Cofan, Kamentsa and Inga communities in Putumayo) developed a “manifesto for the Amazon” which includes a call for the “cancellation of licences for the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Mother Earth.”
Notably, the Siona also wrote Colombian president Iván Duque in August 2018 stating that Amerisur was violating their collective, territorial and constitutional rights, and endangering their “physical and cultural integrity”.
Peace Brigades International-Canada will continue to monitor this situation and research the human rights implications of Canadian oil company operations in Putumayo.