PBI-Canada organizing to bring criminalized Colombian social leaders to Toronto and Ottawa in February 2024

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Iraida, Miguel, Oscar and Ninfa.

PBI-Canada and PBI-Colombia are working to bring two Colombian social leaders to Canada who have been criminalized for protesting a Canadian oil company, along with representatives of two human rights organizations who have been supporting them.

We plan to bring Carmen Iraida Salcedo Gutiérrez and Miguel Ángel Rincón (social leaders from San Luis de Palenque) and Oscar Ramirez (the President of the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners/CSPP) and Ninfa Cruz (the founder of the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training/COSPACC).


Following his visit to Colombia in 2019, UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst wrote in this report to the Human Rights Council:

“Eight leaders from San Luis de Palenque were arrested and accused of collusion to commit an offence, violence against a public servant and obstructing a public road, and two of them with attempted homicide in connection with their participation in and leadership of the social protests between 2016 and 2018 in response to the failure of Canadian public company Frontera Energy to fulfil its obligation to compensate communities affected by environmental damage and to repair damaged roads.”

“These human rights defenders remain deprived of their liberty, three of them in prison and five on house arrest.”

“The Special Rapporteur is concerned at the apparent connection between Frontera Energy, the army’s 16th brigade and the Attorney General’s Support Office in this criminalization and the possible impact of the agreement between Ecopetrol S.A. and the Attorney General’s Office on the situation.”

“In November 2018, Frontera Energy signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US$ 1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities. On 4 December 2018, the army and the police accused the aforementioned leaders of being members of ‘Los Jinetes con Careta’, an illegal armed group whose existence has yet to be recognized by the competent authorities.”

Video: A Black Hawk helicopter was used in the arrest of the social leaders.

Video: They were handcuffed and transported in an armoured vehicle after their arrest.

A fuller timeline of this situation can be read at San Luis de Palenque Case: Communities, Mobilization, Oil Companies and Prosecution.

House arrest for 20 months

Iraida and Miguel were arrested in that army and police operation on November 27, 2018. It was not until August 11, 2020, that the house arrest restrictions placed on them were removed.

At that time, El Nuevo Oriente reported: “The release decision was appealed by the Prosecutor’s Office and by Frontera Energy’s lawyers.”

The other criminalized social leaders, three of whom had been sent to prison, including Iraida’s brother Ferney Salcedo, were released on September 16, 2020.

They all now still face lengthy criminal trials.

Photo: Iraida and Miguel at home.

CSPP and COSPACC support social leaders

Ninfa is the founder of the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COSPACC). She decided to defend human rights more than 20 years ago after the small-scale farming movement in Casanare was attacked by the army, state security forces and paramilitary groups. Dozens of leaders were forced to flee. Ninfa has experienced five displacements and one attempt to disappear her.

Óscar is a human rights lawyer and has been the President of the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) since August 2022. He defends the human rights of those deprived of liberty, the right to protest and denounces abuses of authority, police violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. He has represented victims of state violence and led research on the criminalization of social leaders.

The tour

If the necessary visas can be secured, Iraida, Miguel, Ninfa and Oscar will be in Toronto and Ottawa in mid-February 2024.

They will be meeting with journalists (to broaden awareness of their situation in the media), civil society (to strengthen their network of support), Members of Parliament (to help build political support), the public (to build general awareness), and many others.

This intervention will take place just after a court hearing (February 1-2, 2024) and about three months before the Frontera shareholders meeting (around May 18, 2024) takes place in Toronto.

We will be sharing more details as the plans progress. If you want to support this advocacy intervention with a donation, please click here.

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