MAC: Mines and Communities

Campaign Leaders from La Guajira Tour the United States

Published by MAC on 2002-06-18

Campaign Leaders from La Guajira Tour the United States

Pressure on ExxonMobil continues because of its involvement in the destruction at Tabaco. US campaigning group Pressurepoint (, based in Seattle, is campaigning against the company because of its denial of the reality of climate change, its environmental destruction and its involvement in human rights abuses around the world. Intercor’s activities in La Guajira have been part of its campaign. Pressurepoint invited Remedios Fajardo and Armando Perez to attend the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of the ExxonMobil Corporation in Dallas, Texas, on May 28th, to let shareholders know what the company had done in Colombia. Remedios and Armando also attended meetings during May with supporters in Seattle, Washington and Salem, Massachusetts.

The visit to Salem was at the invitation of Healthlink and North Shore Colombia Support Group. Salem’s electricity is provided by a power station owned by PG&E and uses coal from El Cerrejon Norte. Healthlink has campaigned for several years to clean up the power station’s emissions; the Colombia Support Group exists to offer solidarity to people in Colombia struggling for social justice.

Armando and Remedios were interviewed by local radio and the local newspaper, Salem Evening News. A Spanish-language video showing the destruction of Tabaco last August was broadcast on several local cable television stations, with English subtitles.

Armando and Remedios also had fruitful meetings with Colombian-born city councillor Claudia Chuber and with the Mayor, Stanley Usovicz, who promised to write to the Mayor of Hatonuevo (the municipality in which Tabaco is situated) to urge that the Colombian Supreme Court decision be implemented. He also promised practical support for the reconstruction of Tabaco in the form of school furnishings, should the community want them.

PG&E management refused to meet with the Colombian delegates but, under pressure from the Colombia Support Group, issued the following statement concerning Tabaco and El Cerrejon: “As a customer we urge our vendor to enter into negotiations to find a just settlement to this issue.” The support group plan to try to build stronger links with unionised workers in the power station. Trade union support has been lacking because of a fear among workers that local campaign groups want to close the power station.

Before leaving Salem, Remedios released the following statement. Her words were included in a letter which appeared soon after in the local newspaper:

"The coal that is mined in El Cerrejón, located on indigenous Wayúu and Afro-Colombian lands in Colombia, comes to Salem to provide electricity, benefitting this city.

"We want to tell the people of Salem that this coal has its origins in violence. Our communities have suffered greatly. Their human rights have been violated, their territory has been usurped, their houses destroyed and demolished, and they have had to shed their blood in order for this coal to arrive in Salem and other parts of the world.

"The acts that have been committed by El Cerrejón could be considered as war crimes, and they should be condemned by the world. PG&E has an indirect responsibility, for it is using a mineral that comes from the sacrifice of communities like Tabaco (destroyed last summer) and other communities that are threatened with destruction, like Tamaquito, Roche, Chancleta and Patilla.

"We beg the city of Salem to express their solidarity with us, because we have a relationship with them because of this situation. Salem can influence PG&E. We would like PG&E, as a customer of the Cerrejón mine, to demand justice for the people who live in the mining zone, who were born and raised in the zone, and who have lived their lives there." (Remedios Fajardo Gómez)

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