MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Civil Society statement

Published by MAC on 2007-02-10

Civil Society statement

Bogota

10th February 2007

VIOLENT ATTACK UPON PROTEST BY RESIDENTS OF LA JAGUA DE IBIRICO, IN CESAR DEPARTMENT, WHO ARE DEMANDING THAT GLENCORE AG AND DRUMMOND CEASE THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION, AND ARE INSISTING ON JOBS AND RESPECT FOR THE LIVES AND DIGNITY OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE AREA. THE POLICE HAVE KILLED ONE PERSON, INJURED MANY OTHERS AND TWO CHILDREN ARE IN CRITICAL CONDITION.

THE UNDERSIGNED LABOR, SOCIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS DENOUNCE THIS SERIOUS AGGRESSION AGAINST THE VICTIMS OF THIS AREA OF LA JAGUA DE IBIRICO, WHERE COAL MINES OPERATED BY THE COMPANIES GLENCORE AG AND DRUMMOND ARE LOCATED. THE ATTACKS WERE CARRIED OUT BY POLICE FORCES AT THE SERVICE OF THESE TRANSNATIONAL COMPANIES. WE CALL URGENTLY FOR SOLIDARITY OF SOCIAL, HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATIONS OF THE WORLD TO PREVENT A MASSACRE OF THE CIVIL POPULATION OF LA JAGUA DE IBIRICO.

FACTS:

1. The population of La Jagua de Iberico-Cesar has for several years been suffering from contamination produced by mining operations and transport of coal in the mines of Glencore A.G. and Drummond, located in the jurisdictions of this municipality, and from unemployment, pulmonary illnesses of children, misery and the military-paramilitary presence which has accompanied the arrival of the transnationals and which has produced grave human rights violations. Because of this, two days ago the residents decided to carry out a peaceful protest to block the roads which enter and exit the town. Today, in an act of savagery characteristic of a fascist regime, the riot police violently attacked the march, murdering MANUEL CELIS MENDOZA, aged 42 years, and critically injured LAURA VALENTINA PALMA ORTIZ, 13 years, GABRIEL ENRIQUE GOMEZ, 22 years, NEGER ROBLES, 28 years (shot in the hip), HUGES CORONEL, YELY KARINA FONSECA, 13 years, and JAIO DIAZ. Also in critical condition is a two month old baby girl, YESI LICED GUERRERO, as well as another for whom it is not known if she is alive or dead.

2. This situation adds to the recent deaths of 40 miners in the departments of Norte de Santander and Boyacá. Adding to other accidents since 2004, this means that nearly 80 miners have died in entirely preventable accidents, since the close of MINERCOL Ltd, a state company in charge of the oversight of mines. We must add a death annually in the mine of Drummond, a similar figure for the mines of Cerrejón and other coal mines in Cesar, which show the humanitarian disaster which is being produced by coal mining operations, on the part of the transnationals and national monopolies.

3. Although it is quite clear that the most serious accidents are occurring in small mines which have little if any levels of industrial security, the coal extracted in those mines is bought by the larger transnationals who operate in Colombia and who do not have oversight over the security situations of the miners who work indirectly for these international monopolies.

4. The situation of the mining sector has worsened since the World Bank, IMF and the governments of the United States and Canada and the largest mining transnationals began to impose a model of mining-energy development upon our country, which has meant the merciless plunder of our natural resources, benefitting the transnationals exclusively and causing a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions in our territory.

WE ASK:

That the Colombian state guarantee respect for the life and personal integrity of the inhabitants of La Jagua de Ibirico, attend immediately to the injured, free those arbitrarily arrested, arrest the murderers of Manuel Celis Mendoza and those who fired against the civil population, and become responsible for public order in the region without injuring or killing the inhabitants.

That the Colombian government and the representatives of the multinational companies who are exploiting natural resources in Colombia cease their criminal actions against defenseless residents who are only asking that their natural resources generate a minimum of benefits for the population; and not only for corrupt individuals who run the government, transnational companies and governments of countries such as USA, Canada, Switzerland and others, who, without any respect for human rights, purchase the blood-soaked coal produced in Colombia.

That the governments of the USA, Canada and Switzerland and the civil society of these countries initiate a processes of Truth, Justice and Reparations which make clear the role of these governments and their multinationals in the destruction of the social fabric made up by the labor unions, African descendants, indigenous persons, who are victims of the actions of these governments and companies, as was declared in the ruling of the PERMANENT TRIBUNAL OF THE PEOPLE who met this past November in Medellín.

That the Attorney General of the Nation investigate the murder of MANUEL CELIS MENDOZA and the injuring of other victims and arbitrary arrests; that the locations of the investigators of these incidents be changed, for the prosecutors office of Cesar does not offer any guarantees, as was clearly shown in the investigation of the homicide of Luís Emilio Zuleta, brother of the defender of human rights and activist of Sintraminercol Yesenia Echavarria, who was murdered, it is believed, at the hands of an official of the National Police this past December 10, 2006.

We ask social organizations throughout the world to:

1. Initiate actions of peaceful protest in the consulates and embassies of Colombia, such as have been carried out by our friends in Peru, demanding the cessation of criminal repression against the residents of La Jagua de Ibiríco, against miners who are members of Sintramienergetica and demonstrating against the criminal presence of the mining companies who operate in Colombia.

2. Push for decisions to suspend imports and new contracts against the multinationals and national monopolies who are carrying out the repression against residents and social organizations in our country.

3. For employees of these same companies to carry out protest actions such as strikes and meetings, demanding the ending of the criminal repression against inhabitants of La Jagua de Ibirico.

4. Demand that the governments of USA, the United Kingdom and Israel cease immediately the military aid which these countries give to the Colombian government, which is committed to grave violations of human rights and led to protect the economic interests of the multinationals of these nations.

[For a list of organisations signing on to this statement, see Spanish version below]. *

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