PBI-Colombia accompanies CAHUCOPANA at meeting with Canadian Embassy on the situation in northeastern Antioquia
On August 11, PBI-Colombia tweeted:
“We thank @CanadayColombia [the Embassy of Canada in Colombia] for supporting @CAHUCOPANA and leaders / those in #northeastern Antioquia who, without guarantees of protection, defend life and resist #war with measures such as #humanitarian actions. Key that the international community supports proposals for #peace from the territory.”
The Embassy also tweeted:
“Meeting with @PBIColombia and @CAHUCOPANA to discuss the humanitarian and security crisis in northeastern Antioquia. The situation is serious and the authorities must pay attention. We denounce the attacks and threats against communities and social leaders.”
CAHUCOPANA president Carlos Morales
Carlos Morales (fourth from the right in the photo) was at the meeting with the Embassy.
Front Line Defenders has noted: “Carlos Arturo Morales Mallorga is a human rights defender, peasant farmer leader and current president of the Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz en el Nordeste Antioqueño (Cahucopana).”
They add: “In 2015 he was victim of a judicial set-up and imprisoned for 7 months in Palo Gordo prison in Santander department, until a judge annulled his trial and ordered his release in the absence of evidence. Carlos Morales and other members of Cahucopana have been beneficiaries of precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2018.”
Armed attack against Morales in February
On February 28, 2022, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “#ALERT Carlos Morales, human rights defender with @Cahucopana accompanied by PBI, was shot along with his wife last night in Barrancabermeja. In the midst of a very serious context of violence #NoHayGarantías [no guarantees] and it is #URGENT that the authorities take measures.”
And Blu Radio reported: “Carlos Morales, a social leader from Remedios, was the victim of an armed attack in Barrancabermeja, Santander, where he was relocated by the National Protection Unit because his life was in danger in Antioquia.”
Mining in Northeastern Antioquia
PBI-Colombia has previously explained: “The abundance of natural resources in these lands and the arrival of multinational companies, such as the Canadian Gran Colombia Gold, has provided the illegal armed groups who are present in the region with an extremely lucrative funding source in mining.”
Gran Colombia Gold (renamed GCM Mining in November 2021) operates the El Silencio, Sandra K, Providencia and Carla mines in the Segovia-Remedios area along with interests in three other mines in Colombia.
In October 2021, El Espectador explained:
“In northeast Antioquia, the presence of armed groups has been a constant. The guerrillas arrived first, like the extinct FARC, during the 1980s. Ten years later, with the emergence of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the municipality became a place of dispute over the wealth of its gold-mined land. According to its inhabitants, this wealth has belonged to the armed groups and the multinationals that, according to what the trade unionists have denounced, committed crimes to keep most of the territory to exploit this mineral with titles in perpetuity.”
Artisanal mining in Antioquia
PBI-Colombia has also previously highlighted that may of the people CAHUCOPANA works with are involved in small-scale artisanal gold mining who are concerned by large-scale commercial mining projects backed by national governments.
Between July 21 and September 1, 2017, the towns of Segovia and Remedios went on strike against government decrees that sought to curb “illegal” mining that artisanal miners said blocked them from working independently.
In April 2017, Gran Colombia filed a USD $700 million lawsuit against Colombia under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
At that time, the Financial Post reported: “Gran Colombia’s suit alleges that the local government failed to evict illegal miners from their sites of operations in Marmato and Segovia, and didn’t stop the Marxist armed guerrilla group, the ELN, from interfering with their efforts to extract gold in the province of Antioquia.”
Hidroituango in Northwestern Antioquia
About 120 kilometres due west of Remedios is the town of Ituango, Antioquia.
The Hidroituango hydroelectric dam is being built in northwest Antioquia by the Colombian state-owned utility Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM). EPM has twice benefitted from the support of the Government of Canada financing agency Export Development Canada (EDC). In 2016 and 2017, Export Development Canada provided EPM with financing totalling between 500 million and one billion dollars.
In June 2018, The Guardian reported: “[Isabel] Zuleta [of the Rios Vivos movement – and now a Senator] worries about the security of those who campaign against the dam: two other Ríos Vivos members in Antioquia were murdered [in May 2018].”
Aris Gold mine in Marmato
About 360 kilometres south of Remedios is the town of Marmato.
It is there that Gran Colombia’s plan to flatten a mountain and create an open pit mine was met with resistance from artisanal miners who said this plan would destroy their livelihoods and the surrounding environment.
In September 2011, the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) condemned the murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo, a vocal opponent of the mine.
Father Javier Giraldo, the founder of the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, has stated he believes Father Restrepo was murdered by paramilitary groups “secretly co-opted by the armed forces and by the government security agencies” who “do not hesitate to murder the leaders of this resistance.”
Days after Father Restrepo’s murder, MiningWatch Canada sent this open letter to the Canadian Embassy in Bogotá, expressing concern that Canadian mining companies “may well be aggravating or benefiting from violence.”
In September 2019, Mining.com reported: “Residents of the 500 year-old Marmato town, mostly opposed the miner’s intention of flattening a mountain to create an open pit. That is no longer an issue, as Gran Colombia has opted for underground mining at Marmato.”
The Marmato mine is now operated by Vancouver-based Aris Gold. As of today, GCM beneficially owns 60,991,545 Aris Gold shares representing approximately 44.3% of the issued and outstanding Aris Gold shares.
CAHUCOPANA notes: “We work together under the need to strengthen the protection and self-protection mechanisms of peasant communities.”
PBI-Colombia has accompanied the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA) since 2013.
PBI-Colombia accompanying Morales, March 2022.