PBI-Colombia accompanied Berenice Celeita on megaprojects, Indigenous rights and violence in southwestern Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

In a new PBI-Colombia video, NOMADESC president Berenice Celeita talks about the role megaprojects and the lack of respect for Indigenous rights play in the level of violence happening in southwestern Colombia.

That area of the country includes the departments (provinces) of Valle de Cauca (where Buenaventura is located), Cauca, Nariño and Putumayo.

NOMADESC (the Association for Research and Social Action) is a human rights organization that advises and accompanies organizations working on social, trade union, civic, Indigenous, Afro-descendant, agricultural and women’s issues.

In the PBI-Colombia interview, Celeita says: “The southwest has been the stage for large-scale megaprojects, particularly mining and energy, megaprojects where the Colombian state has violated free, prior and informed consent.”

She highlights: “Let’s remember that, starting last year, at the end of the year a wave of violence began against the Indigenous Guard who are territorial authorities who perform very important protection activities, defending life and the territory.”

In October 2019, PBI-Colombia was accompanying NOMADESC when Cristina Bautista Taquinas and four unarmed Indigenous Guards were killed in an attack in the village of La Luz in the Tacueyó reservation in southwestern Colombia.

CUPE president Mark Hancock was in Colombia at that time and you can read his reflection on that experience in Courage and resilience in Colombia.

In October of this year, NOMADESC took part in the Minga mobilization in which thousands of Indigenous people traveled to the capital city of Bogota to demand a meeting with President Ivan Duque about the rise in murders of Indigenous leaders and the right to free, prior and informed consent on major development projects.

At the time of the Minga mobilization, Joe Sauca from the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC) told El Espectador: “The risks of the territory have been raised, guarantees are required to be able to be calm and free from the issue of mega-mining, ‘fracking’, from all that situation that affects our peoples.”

In the PBI-Colombia video released on December 14, Celeita says: “We think that it’s important to take up the Minga’s demands again. The first point is the defence of life, the defence of life is connected to the defence of territory, peace and democracy. These are the rights that are most often violated today.”

It is with this context that we note that Canadian companies figure prominently among the foreign investors engaged in resource extraction in Colombia that can conflict with Indigenous rights and the peacebuilding process.

Notably, Canadian mining companies increased their assets in Colombia from $30 billion to $210 billion between 2005 and 2015. And Canadian oil and gas companies – including Gran Tierra Energy, Parex Resources, Canacol Energy and Frontera Energy – also have significant operations in the country.

To watch the 5-minute PBI-Colombia interview with Celeita, please click here.

PBI-Colombia has accompanied Celeita since 1999 and NOMADESC since 2011.

In the most recent International Solidarity Report from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Mark Hancock and Charles Fleury highlight: “The struggle for recognition of Indigenous rights in Canada is related to Indigenous resistance to land grabs in Colombia and Guatemala.”

Victor Hugo Ospina (NOMADESC), Marta Giraldo (MOVICE Valle de Cauca), Yuliana Veléz (NOMADESC), Mark Hancock (CUPE), Berenice Celeita (NOMADESC), Betzayda Dominguez (NOMADESC), Olga Araujo (NOMADESC) in October 2019.

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