Colombian court rules against Calgary-based Parex Resources injunction application
Photo: A still from the December 21, 2020 with Iván Madero Vergel (CREHDOS president), Leidy Irreño (CREDHOS lawyer), Oscar Sampayo (CRY-GEAM spokesperson) and Raúl Barba (environmental leader).
Calgary-based Parex Resources Inc. operates the Aguas Blancas oil field in the municipality of Simacota, Santander in northeastern Colombia.
The Parex operation in Simacota is located in the Magdalena Medio region which also encompasses the municipalities of Barrancabermeja, Puerto Wilches and San Martin. The region is spread over seven departments, notably Santander (where Simacota is located), Antioquia and Cesar. It is a focal point for oil extraction and refining, as well as for threats against environmental human rights defenders.
On September 29, 2020, Parex launched a tutela action against Yolanda Pico and Segundo Adolfo Salinas, leaders of the Community Action Board of the la vereda El divisó La Colorada in the lower area of the municipality of Simacota.
By October 13, the Municipal Court of Simacota had dismissed this challenge.
A tutela is an injunction that aims to protect constitutional rights when they are violated or threatened by the action or omission of any public authority.
The mechanism is incorporated in Article 86 of the Constitution and a tutela can proceed under several circumstances including when the actor (plaintiff) is in a situation of defenselessness in relation to the individual (defendant) against whom the tutela is brought.
Parex claimed that between March 4 and March 18 of 2020, its operations at the Aguas Blancas project were affected in unjustified ways by some members of the community including by Mrs. Pico and Mr. Salinas. That reportedly included a blockade at the entrance to the main production plant that prevented workers from entering the site.
The ruling notes that on March 17, Parex presented a right of petition to the defendants to answer their assertions against the company. On March 27, the defendants replied that they were not obligated to reply to that right of petition.
In a letter dated September 23, Parex outlined in a letter their argument to have their good name and honour protected from the assertions of Pico and Salinas.
On October 13, the Municipal Court of Simacota declared the inadmissibility of the protection action. It further ruled that the defendants (Pico and Salinas) exercised their right to free expression and that at no time did they violate the rights of the plaintiff (Parex).
The ruling also found that there was no dependence or subordination of one with respect to the other (as required in a tutela action) and that the peaceful protest by the defendants did not violate the rights of the plaintiff.
On December 21, CREDHOS president Ivan Madero Vergel, CREDOS lawyer Leidy Irreño, CRY-GEAM spokesperson Oscar Sampayo and environmental leader Raúl Barba. spoke about this case at a press conference.
The 22-minute video of that press conference can be seen here.
The press conference denounced the criminalization of social leaders by Parex. Putting this in a broader context, the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) has noted that “between 2012 and 2019, 249 social leaders have been judicialized and 74% of them were environmental and land defenders.”
The speakers also highlighted this recent threat made against eighteen environmental leaders (including Sampayo) by the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras).
The threats against environmental and community leaders exemplify the intensification of the armed conflict in the region. CREDHOS has highlighted this in their October 2020 report: The Armed Silence: Pacts and Disputes in Magdalena Medio.
Various environmental concerns have been raised about the Parex Aguas Blancas operation over the past four years.
The oil field has been opposed by local communities and environmentalists, notably over the irregular acquisition of the land and the environmental impact of the operations. In September 2015, when Parex signed an agreement with Ecopetrol, the expectation was the deal could allow the Aguas Blancas field to increase to 10,000 barrels a day by 2020.
CRY-GEAM (the Yariguíes Regional Corporation Group of Extractive, Environmental and Social Studies of Magdalena Medio) began to note concerns shortly after Parex had completed the drilling of its first four wells at Aguas Blancas.
CRY-GEAM posted to Facebook this video in January 2017 with concerns about the absence of needed environmental documents and these photos in April 2017 expressing concern about a flipped truck and runoff into the Colorada River.
In April 2017, CRY-GEAM also posted this video on Twitter with the text: “Parex in Simacota, Campo Aguas Blancas, without archaeological management plan, without environmental permit, above the law and communities. Who responds?”
Despite this, Export Development Canada, the Government of Canada’s export credit agency, has provided financing and support to Parex including: $50-100 million (27-05-2019): $50-100 million (22-02-2019); and $25-50 million (07-05-2018).
Peace Brigades International continues to closely follow the situation at Aguas Blancas and affirms the fundamental right of the local community to express their concerns about the environmental impacts of this Canadian oil and gas corporation.