Colombian social leader Ferney Salcedo released from prison after 500 days for protesting Toronto-based Frontera Energy

Published by Brent Patterson on

Ferney Salcedo was recently released from prison after 500 days of incarceration without a trial in relation to protests he took part in against the operations of Toronto-based Frontera Energy in the community of San Luis de Palenque, Casanare, Colombia.

El Nuevo Oriente reports that Salcedo was first held in a prison in Yopal (about 100 kilometres west of San Luis de Palenque) then transferred to La Picota (almost 500 kilometres away) after he demanded more dignified conditions for the prisoners.

It also notes that his wife Yulivel Leal was held under house arrest in Yopal for the past 500 days with their children, now 12 and 14 years of age.

A judge ordered his release (and the release of the other defenders criminalized in this case) on September 16 given 500 days had elapsed without a trial.

After his release from prison, the article notes: “He made special reference to the lawyers from COSPACC and the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP), two NGOs who have given him vital legal support.”

El Nuevo Oriente also reports: “The trial as such, even after almost two years of their arrests, have not yet begun, and after all this time in jail only as of tomorrow, September 23, new court hearings will come.”

Salcedo says: “I want the trial to start now. To detract everything that has been said about us and so that they really look to see if they can prove all those accusations against us.”

Violeta Stereo adds: “The accusing body has maintained the version that these peasants were part of an organized criminal group, that is, of a (GDO) that used social protest to commit criminal acts. …[But] according to the peasants and social leaders, the protests at the time sought to make visible the breach of the environmental license and the other agreements signed between the multinational and the community.”

Michel Forst, when he was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, raised the case of Salcedo, Leal, and the six others arrested in relation to protests against Frontera Energy in San Luis de Palenque.

Forst wrote:

“The Special Rapporteur is concerned at the apparent connection between Frontera Energy, the army’s 16th brigade and the Attorney General’s Support Office in this criminalization and the possible impact of the agreement between Ecopetrol S.A. and the Attorney General’s Office on the situation.

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.

On 4 December 2018, the army and the police accused the aforementioned leaders of being members of ‘Los Jinetes con Careta’, an illegal armed group whose existence has yet to be recognized by the competent authorities.

Furthermore, since 2015, Ecopetrol, the main Colombian hydrocarbon exploitation company, has signed five cooperation agreements with the Attorney General’s Office for a total of US$ 24,698,485 to strengthen the investigative and prosecutorial capacity of the Attorney General’s Support Office to deal – inter alia – with crimes of obstruction of public roads during social protests that affect the functioning of Ecopetrol and/or its associated companies, such as Frontera Energy.”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project accompanies COSPACC and the CSPP, the two organizations Salcedo thanks in the El Nuevo Oriente article.

PBI-Canada has supported this accompaniment by arranging advocacy meetings for COSPACC and the CSPP with Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Colombia (on May 7), civil society allies Above Ground, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Amnesty International Canada, WWF-Canada, le Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie, and el Comité por los Derechos Humanos en América Latina (on June 2), and Canadian Member of Parliament Paul Manly (on July 2).

PBI-Colombia and PBI-Canada continue to follow this case closely.

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