LNG import terminal to be built in Buenaventura as human rights concerns persist

Published by Brent Patterson on

In September 2019, PBI-Colombia accompanied a visit by human rights organizations and embassies to Buenaventura.

On June 4, Business News Americas reported on a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) import regasification terminal that is now scheduled to be built at the port of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific Ocean coast.

BNAmericas reports: “Officials have said that a tender for the project will be launched by August, with construction expected to begin early in 2021 amid efforts to avert a gas supply deficit.” Construction is expected to be completed in 2024.

That article adds: “Naturgas [the Colombian natural gas association] has given cautious approval for the project to go ahead, with the proviso that higher import capacity does not create a disincentive to local production.”

That local production could include Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. In November 2019, the Canadian Press reported that Canacol “has started making and selling liquefied natural gas to supply energy consumers” in Colombia.

Buenaventura civic strike

In May 2017, Buenaventura residents held a 22-day civic strike to protest investment in the port rather than the spending needed to build a local hospital and provide access to potable water. The Colombian government sent the ESMAD riot police to quell the protest.

Canadian organizations have worked in solidarity with the leaders of that strike.

In October and November 2018, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and other unions and organizations organized a cross-country speaking tour in Canada with three of the Buenaventura civic strike leaders.

PSAC highlights: “The strike—which the visiting leaders are careful to note was suspended, not ended—won an agreement containing important concessions from the government to improve public services, including community housing, health services, roads, the justice system, and a new framework agreement to protect the rights of port workers.”

It then cautions: “Yet, since May 2017, threats against strike leaders have continued as plans go forward to expand and modernize the port, while the government fails to implement its agreement with the strikers.”

NOMADESC and the Inter-Church Commission on the port

PBI-Colombia has accompanied NOMADESC since 2011 and its president Berenice Celeita since 1999. A 3-minute PBI-Colombia video with Berenice reflecting on the conditions in Buenaventura and the civic strike can be seen here.

PBI-Colombia has explained: “NOMADESC now works with a dozen organisations … and started an integrated research initiative to show how the current port expansion and infrastructure development are linked to the human rights violations in the city and how constitutional and ethno-territorial rights are being infringed.”

PBI-Colombia also accompanies the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission.

Father Alberto Franco has commented that the construction of a freshwater port in Buenaventura region was a factor in the displacement of Indigenous people from the lower stretches of the Calima and San Juan rivers.

Father Franco has also remarked: “Violence is essential to remove poor people from areas to pave the way for development projects. With violence, people have learned that if they see or if they hear, they don’t talk.”

PBI-Colombia has noted: “The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission report Buenaventura: Displacement for a Competitive Economy explains how the living conditions in Buenaventura have deteriorated as a consequence of the economic growth, modernization and expansion through the development of the port.”

Photo: In 2018, PBI-Colombia accompanied NOMADESC at an event in the Isla de la Paz neighbourhood of Buenaventura that recognized the leaders of the May 2017 Civic Strike.

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