MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2001-08-03



Exxon's 100% owned mining subsidiary Intercor is poised to evict all residents of the indigenous/ campesino community of Tabaco in the province of La Guajira, Colombia, on 9th or 10th August, in order to facilitate expansion of South America's biggest coal strip mine, Cerrejon Norte.


Residents have been resisting eviction and holding out for an adequate relocation package which would allow the whole community to stay together and move to a new site where they could continue to practice small-scale agriculture. The relocation arrangements on offer from the company would break up the community and ensure that most members had insufficient funds to buy land from which to live - the result would be poverty and unemployment in nearby towns, already swollen with people displaced by Colombia's internal war.

Intercor is now threatening to use Colombian police and army personnel to force the residents to move. residents are determined to resist. The community's legal representative, Armando Perez, fears a massacre.

"The Colombian Government and Judges Violates the Indigenous People and Peasants in the Vicinity of the Coal Mine Exploited by Exxon subsidiary Intercor, Billiton, Glencore and Anglo-American.

The most shameless and absurd collusion with the mining companies, smashing the human rights of the indigenous people and peasants in the region of La Guajira (North Colombia), has taken place in the last few days. The decision to expropriate a town, functioning with public authority, its cemetery, school, health centre, telecommunications office, streets and squares etc. is without precedent in contemporary legal history. This decision was taken by the Pastrana government through its Minister of Mines and Energy Luis Carlos Valenzuela, the same man who just a few months ago was involved in punishable conduct, for which, incredibly, he is now granted impunity by the National Attorney General.

This decision means that the resident families may be judicially robbed of the very homes they live in, including the possibility that these humble people will be ejected and their homes destroyed before their eyes.

It would not be the first time that such a thing has occurred. One of the community's strategies has been to take refuge in the Catholic church, whose building is the property of the Tabaco community. But it seems that this will not be possible, because the Italian priest Marcelo Graciosi sold the church to the US multinational [Intercor], with the visible intention of stopping them getting refuge. This was a clear manoeuvre by the Intercor corporation, operating the mining contract, which counted on the complicity of a delinquent and immoral priest. Armando Larios is the new bishop. He says that he is sorry for what has happened, that he takes no part in it, but he cannot undo the deal...

The Tabaco community requires a humanitarian solidarity action to stop the abuse and avoid, please God, a massacre. The position of the people is that they will not yield to being trampled on...

Next to Tabaco is another community, Tamaquitos, which is an indigenous community that has been abused and de-recognised, reaching the extreme point that the office of Indigenous Affairs was trying to affirm that it did not exist. The person in charge of this office, Marcela Bravo, commissioned an [anthropological] study whose findings were adverse to her anti-indigenous posture. She then refused to pay the fee of professional who had been contracted, because this person refused to reformulate the social scientific study according to Bravo's dictate.

On top of this criminal attitude by the government and the judges, the environmental situation is worsening, as part of orchestrated hostilities to asphyxiate the families in these towns ..."

Armando Pérez Araújo, 1st August 2001, La Guajira, Colombia.

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