Indigenous Wayuu denounce Canadian-owned Isagen installation of wind power project on sacred site in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 20, Colombian environmental defender Oscar Sampayo tweeted: “The Canadian investment fund @Brookfield owner of @ISAGEN in Colombia, violent and disrespectful sacred sites of the Wayúu community in northern Colombia.”

In 2016, the Toronto-based Brookfield bought a majority share (57.6 per cent) in the Medellin-based power generation and distribution company Isagen.

While there does not appear to be media reports on this yet, this is what we can piece together from other social media posts:

Sampayo’s tweet follows the tweet from the Nacion Wayuu ONG that says: “Isagen invades Wayuu indigenous territories and desecrates sacred sites to install a wind project in an inconsistent and arbitrary manner.”

Willander Pushaina has also tweeted: “@ISAGEN profane sacred sites of the Wayuu People, that private company speaks of DEVELOPMENT, a development that will generate a conflict in the territory, physical and cultural extermination of an ancient people.”

And Oscar Montero has tweeted: “For the Wayuu people, cemeteries are their sacred places where the bodies of their loved ones rest. To desecrate them is to break the spiritual connection of the Wayuu who have gone to Jepirra and of those who are on Mother Earth.”

Jepira is the place where the spirits of the Wayuu dead go to begin their journey. There, the souls can transform into rain to come back to the Guajira desert.

Isagen is also involved in hydroelectric projects.

In 2016, the PBI-Colombia accompanied Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) filed a challenge against Isagen’s proposed 152-MW Piedra del Sol hydroelectric project given concerns about the project’s impact on the water supply and fragile ecosystems.

Brookfield now also owns through Isagen the Sogamoso Hydroelectric Dam which is located 30 kilometres west of Bucaramanga. Between 2009 and 2014, six activists were killed and many more were disappeared in relation to their opposition to this dam.

Brookfield plans to invest billions in solar and renewable power.

Last month, Bloomberg reported: “Brookfield Asset Management Inc. plans to raise at least $7.5 billion (all figures U.S.) for a new climate-focused fund, as the Canadian investment firm builds out an ESG [environmental, social and governance] business led by former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor Mark Carney.”

That article also noted: “There’s no path to net zero without large capital investments in clean power, said Carney [who also says] getting the carbon out of energy systems means replacing fossil fuels with solar and other renewable sources and will require $3 trillion or more a year in capital investment for decades.”

What’s next?

The Nación Wayuú ONG has called “on the Colombian State, national and international control bodies and Isagen, to refrain from continuing to implement their project until the fundamental right to free and informed prior consent to which indigenous peoples are entitled is fulfilled.”

Last week, Juliette de Rivero, Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, tweeted: “We visit the communities of the Wayuu people of La Guajira to follow up on the human rights situation.”

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