PBI-Colombia amplifies statement denouncing attack against Barrancabermeja wetland protector Luidmila Gutiérrez

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Last week’s visit to the pollution points in the San Silvestre wetland.

On July 29, PBI-Colombia tweeted:

“At risk environmentalists #MagdalenaMedio Repeated attacks against leaders/those of #Fedepesán are of concern, such as an attack against Yuli Velásquez and persecution and threats against Luidmila Gutiérrez, who protect water and territory, accompanied by @Credhos_Paz #Urgent Guarantees.”

Infobae reports:

On the night of Monday, July 25, at the home of Luidmila Gutiérrez, three armed men forcibly entered the place, intimidated her and forced her to stay still, while her son watched the scene with fear.

Yuli Velásquez, who has been the victim of three attempts on her life for the defense of the environment in Barrancabermeja [says]: “They took a motorcycle, cell phones. They told the son of comrade Oswaldo, a 7-year-old boy, that if he did not do what they asked for, they would crush the mother’s hands. I told the security forces this, but nobody does anything, or says anything.”

According to the account of Juan Camilo Delgado, environmental engineer of the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (Credhos) … after entering the house, the men “proceeded to requisition the house, demanded cash of her. She says they lasted about an hour in the house, she is sure of two subjects who entered, but presumes that there was someone else outside. They stole money, a cell phone and Luidmila’s motorcycle.”

Luidmila Gutiérrez is part of Asopesadiba [the Association of Fishermen, Farmers and Producers of the Water Bodies of the District of Barrancabermeja] and is the wife of Oswaldo Beltrán, belonging to Fedepesan [the Federation of Artisanal Fishermen, Environmentalists and Tourists from the Department of Santander] who led last Friday’s visit to the pollution points in the San Silvestre swamp.

The San Silvestre swamp in the city of Barrancabermeja is one of the main bodies of water in the region, because in addition to its ecological function as a natural habitat for a large number of biological species, it is the source of water collection for purification and supply of the urban area and part of the rural area of the city.

The contamination of the San Silvestre swamp, which has been caused, in large part, by the [Ecopetrol] refinery and the company Aguas de Barrancabermeja, violent attacks against this population have continued to occur.

This joint statement from CREDHOS, the Territorial Development Observatory Corporation and FEDEPESAN denounces the attack against Luidmila Gutierrez on July 25.

It also notes: “[On] previous days –June 30 and July 1, 2022– FEDEPESAN had conducted an inspection visit that was attended by CREDHOS, PBI-Canada, and a team of international journalists who interviewed YULY VELASQUEZ and LUIDMILA GUTIERREZ, each at her residence, in order to make visible the work of artisanal fisherwomen in the region.”

Photo: Visit to the San Silvestre wetland, June 30.

Their joint statement further highlights: “We consider that this last fact against LUIDMILA, added to other victimizing acts against members of FEDEPESAN, are retaliations for the work in defense of the complexes swampy areas and their tributaries, the protection of artisanal fishing and the complaints made by the artisanal fishermen, through different means of communication and regional, national and international organizations that defend human rights and the territory.”

It also calls on the international community to help request “the Colombian State guarantees for the protection of life, physical and psychological integrity, security and Permanence in the territory of the artisanal fishermen of the District of Barrancabermeja and the Magdalena Medio region, in addition to monitoring the situation of social leaders in the region” and calls for “a verification mission to identify and analyze the risks and violations of the Human Rights of members of FEDEPESAN.”

We continue to follow this situation.

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