PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS concerned by attack against water defender Yuli Velazques

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo by CREDHOS.

On January 21, CREDHOS tweeted: “CREDHOS accompanies environmental organizations and the leader Yuli Velazques of the Federation of Environmental and Tourist Artisanal Fishermen of the Department of Santander – Fedepesan- in the face of events that threatened her life and integrity in Barrancabermeja.”

El Tiempo has reported: “This Wednesday, January 20, the environmental engineer, environmental defender and member of the Barrancabermeja Fisheries Federation, Yuli Andrea Velázquez, was the victim of an attack on her home.”

“The leader told EL TIEMPO that two men approached her home at night. They covered their faces with motorcycle helmets, making it suspicious.”

“’My husband told me: let’s stop, let’s go inside and close the door. At the moment we stop and close the door. But they (the men with helmets) run towards us and start firing shots. I grabbed my children and we threw ourselves on the floor’, said Yuli.”

“Yuli is recognized in her region for denouncing an alleged corruption with the resources that the company Ecopetrol and the Santander Regional Autonomous Corporation invest to clean the swamps, unclog the pipes and make an environmental recovery of all the swamps of Barrancabermeja, especially that of San Silvestre. Since, according to her complaints, these resources are not reflected in the recovery of these ecosystems. She has also denounced the contamination of the San Silvestre swamp and the El Llanito swamp.”

Caracol Radio adds: “Yuli assured that she fears for her life and that of her family and she believes that what happened was due to several cases of complaints that she is handling about contamination in the San Silvestre swamp and the use of oil in some sectors.”

“Days before what happened, another leader with whom she works received intimidation for the investigations carried out with the Barrancabermeja water, Ecopetrol and the denunciations of the San Silvestre channel.”

And Infobae notes: “[Yuli has] warned the authorities to offer her security guarantees calling for sanity and investigating who may have attempted against her life.”

Semana Sostenible has previously explained that the San Silvestre swamp, a wetland area that supplies drinking water to Barrancabermeja, has been contaminated for years by agriculture and livestock (notably thousands of hectares of African palm and large herds of cattle and buffalo), the Ecopetrol oil refinery, and the Esmeralda, Anchicayá and Yerbabuena garbage dumps (the latter two landfills were authorized in 2013-14).

In July 2019, PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS on a boat tour (along with Oscar Sampayo of CRY-GEAM) that included the San Silvestre swamp.

In response to the attack, CRY-GEAM tweeted: “We reject the risk situation experienced by environmentalists from Magdalena Medio and the Port of Barrancabermeja due to the constant attacks, threats and stigmatization they suffer. We reject the attack suffered by the environmental and fishermen leader Yuli Velázquez.”

Dr. Yesid Blanco (a vocal defender of the swamp) tweeted: “They are killing us HELP!!! In the land of fracking, they are exterminating environmental leaders with the complicity of the National Government.”

And the Alliance for a Colombia Free of Fracking tweeted: “We reject the attack against the environmental leader of Barrancabermeja, Yuli Velásquez, who has fought for the protection and care of the Llanito and San Silvestre swamps. That defending water does not continue to cost us our lives.”

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