PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS and the struggle to protect the San Silvestre wetland in Barrancabermeja
Photo: PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS president Ivan Madero (in dark blue shirt) when he visited with San Silvestre wetland defender Yuli Andrea Velázquez shortly after shots were fired at her home by gunmen.
The Ciénaga de San Silvestre (a wetland body of water) is where the city of Barrancabermeja, Santander gets its drinking water.
The Barrancabermeja-based Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) has played an important role in supporting the defenders threatened for their activism in defence of this vital ecosystem.
Dr. Yesid Blanco
PBI-Colombia has noted: “Yésid Blanco, who is a doctor and pediatrician, and a colleague of Óscar Sampayo, has researched and reported on [the massive pollution generated in the wetland by leachate from the landfill site in Barrancabermeja] and its effects on health, including the causes and effects with evidence and toxicology reports.”
CREDHOS has stated: “A small yet powerful sector sees in Dr. Blanco an obstacle to the furtherance of their interests.”
PBI-Colombia notes that CREDHOS was acting as Dr. Blanco’s lawyers. It also highlights this civil society statement signed by CREDHOS that notes that he was researching the increasing levels of mercury in the wetland related to the landfill site.
Threat by Black Eagles
On November 4, 2020, El Espectador reported that 18 people, 14 of whom reside in Barrancabermeja, are named in a pamphlet from Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) that said they have 24 hours to leave the territory or they will be declared a military target.
W Radio added: “The people mentioned have denounced the environmental damage caused by the authorities in the oil port, in the Ciénaga de San Silvestre and other tributaries that supply water to more than 300,000 inhabitants of this sector.”
CREDHOS president Ivan Madero denounced the threat against the environmental defenders in this two-minute video.
Attack on Yuli Andrea Velázquez
On January 21, El Tiempo 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.”
That article added: “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 wetland, unclog the pipes and make an environmental recovery of all the wetlands of Barrancabermeja, especially that of San Silvestre.”
As seen in this tweet, CREDHOS president Ivan Madero, accompanied by PBI-Colombia, visited with Yuli at her home the day after the attack against her.
Death threat against Luis Alberto González
On February 9, W Radio reported: “Luis Alberto González was again the victim of death threats, but this time with an intimidating pamphlet signed by the ELN. The authorities indicated that this social leader has dedicated himself to the defense of the environment, but mainly in defense of the San Silvestre wetland.”
Dígame.com.co reports: “Luis went to CREDHOS so that they could help him to carry out due process. For their part, personnel from the organization stated that they provided the necessary support so that the authorities could establish due care.”
Ramon Abril of CREDHOS says: “We did the legal support for him and the political support of the international community, so that his situation is revealed. When he filed the complaint, they told him that the investigator was busy, that he was going on a trip that they did not attend to, now we are filing the complaints.”
The human right to water
The right to water is a fundamental human right. PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS plays an important role in defending this right and the wetlands around Barrancabermeja from garbage dumps, the Ecopetrol refinery, and the Sogamoso dam (partly owned by Toronto-based Brookfield Assets Management).
For more about CREDHOS, please see the PBI-Colombia website.
CREDHOS president Ivan Madero (center) arrives in Toronto in November 2019 for an 8-day advocacy tour in Canada organized by Peace Brigades International.