Jani Silva defends communities in Putumayo, Colombia where Canadian oil companies operate

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has just published this profile of community leader Jani Silva.

PBI-Colombia explains that Jani is the president of the Association for the Integral Sustainable Development of the Perla Amazónica (ADISPA), the association that manages the Perla Amazónica Peasant Reserve Zone (ZRC).

Jani is accompanied by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, which in turn has been accompanied by PBI-Colombia since 1994.

The ZRC is located near Puerto Asis in the department of Putumayo, which is located in south-west Colombia near the border with Ecuador.

PBI-Colombia notes: “Over the years, one of the great challenges they have faced has been the arrival and expansion of oil companies.”

“According to Jani, these projects came about in the early 2000s when the people leading the ZRCPA were less active due of the threats they were receiving.”

That timing coincides, as Canadian Dimension has reported, with Canada’s Petrobank investing $50 million in its Putumayo oil operations.

Petrobank was a Calgary-based company whose Putumayo operations were taken over by Calgary-based Petrominerales Ltd. in December 2010. Calgary-based Pacific Rubiales (now Frontera Energy Ltd.) bought Petrominerales in September 2013.

Notably though, it was the British company Amerisur, and its exploitation of the Platanillo Block, that has negatively impacted the ZRCPA.

Most recently, Amerisur has sought to formalize the exploitation of the Bienparado Exploratory Drilling Area, Put 8 Block despite community opposition.

“The inhabitants of the ZRCPA claim that the company has not respected its commitments to repair the environmental damage caused and that they are planning an expansion of oil exploitation in unauthorized areas of the ZRCPA.”

In November 2019, Amerisur was purchased by GeoPark, a private oil company that is based in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Beyond GeoPark/Amerisur and Frontera, Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. is involved in the Capella oil field in the Caguán-Putumayo basin and Calgary-based Gran Tierra Energy Inc. has described itself as the “premier operator and top landholder” in the Putumayo basin.

The PBI-Colombia article notes: “Almost three years ago, Jani Silva and her husband Hugo Miramar packed up all their belongings, got on a boat and travelled down the river to Puerto Asis, where they sought refuge. After so many threats and so much stress it was no longer possible to stay on the farm.”

That said, in late March information came forward about a plot to kill Jani, then on April 17 she heard six gunshots at less than 30 metres from her home, and again on April 22 she heard three gunshots less than 50 metres from her home.

Her home in Puerto Asis is located just 60 kilometres south-east of Orito, the hub of Putumayo’s oil operations where Frontera also continues to operate.

To read the full PBI-Colombia article, please click here.

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