Canadian company welcomes Platero fracking pilot project in Colombia; CREDHOS members threatened

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Image from Corporación Observatorio de Desarrollo Territorial (Territorial Development Observatory Corporation).

Toronto-based Sintana Energy Inc. operates in Colombia through its wholly-owned subsidiary Patriot Energy that holds a 30 per cent interest in the VMM-37 block where ExxonMobil will conduct the Platero fracking pilot project.

Environmental defenders in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia continue to be threatened for their opposition to fracking.

Last month, Carolina Agón and Ramón Abril were named in pamphlets circulated by paramilitary groups. Carolina and Ramón were told to leave the area or face the consequences. Ten days later the home of Yuvelis Natalia Morales was broken into.

Carolina is a member of CREDHOS, Ramón is a Board member of CREDHOS, and Yuvelis is with a youth group accompanied by CREDHOS.

This Amnesty International Canada Urgent Action talks more about the situation they face.

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has accompanied the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) since 1994.

Yesterday, Vanguardia reported that Carolina is still in the Magdalena Medio region, but away from her children and family, and Yuvelis is in exile in France.

That article further notes: “Carolina Agón, 34, was born in Rionegro, Santander but arrived four years ago in Puerto Wilches. There she learned artisanal fishing, an activity from which she and many villagers manage to survive.”

“With her leadership she became the vice president of the Federation of Fishermen of Puerto Wilches, two years ago, when it was founded.”

The article adds: “Carolina has been a visible opponent of the fracking pilot project at the Kalé well on the Magdalena River. In March 2021 she summoned a large caravan down the river. The fishermen went out in their canoes not to fish but to protest.”

Carolina says: “On that occasion they released the engine of the canoe and damaged it. First, they started with threatening calls, then with pamphlets and [then harassed by two men who were travelling on a motorcycle]. I am a single mother and I had to leave my children. I have passed it from one place to another living on mercy.”

The Workers’ Union of the Oil Industry (US0), which rejects fracking, has issued a statement rejecting the displacement of Carolina by paramilitary groups.

In November 2019, PBI-Canada organized a meeting between CREDHOS president Ivan Madero and Global Affairs Canada officials in Ottawa. Madero highlighted to them his concerns about fracking in Colombia.

PBI-Colombia now notes: “Since the start of 2022, CREDHOS has warned about the increasing control of armed groups in the territory, in particular, the expansion of the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) – a group inherited from paramilitarism -which is active in several municipalities of Magdalena Medio.”

It adds: “The constant threats which defenders receive from the AGC and other armed groups are framed within a context where strong social leadership is clashing with the interests of the armed actors and the extractive industry.”

There are presently two fracking pilot projects that are proceeding in 2022-23, the Kalé and Platero projects, and both are located near Puerto Wilches.

Toronto-based Sintana Energy Ltd. has welcomed fracking in the Puerto Wilches area. It owns a 30 per cent stake in the block where Platero is situated.

Sintana says: “The Company’s support for Project Platero is made even though the Government’s process excluded an important segment of the petroleum industry by not allowing smaller companies, such as companies the size of Sintana, to participate in CEPI [Special Contracts for Research Projects] bids.”

We continue to follow this situation closely.

In the coming months, we plan to organize a webinar on fracking in the Magdalena Medio region featuring Carolina Agón and Yuvelis Morales. We also plan to visit Puerto Wilches before the summer to document the situation happening in the area.

More on all this soon.

Image from Podion Corporacion.

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