Assassination of community leader and mining critic in Cesar, Colombia

London Mining Network and member group Colombia Solidarity Campaign deplore the assassination last weeken of community leader Aldemar Parra Garcia in Cesar, Colombia. Aldemar was a critic of coal mining operations in the area. Among the companies mining coal in Cesar are US company Drummond, part-funded by UK bank HSBC, and London-listed Glencore.

The following communique was published at the weekend by our friends at Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien in Switzerland (where Glencore has its headquarters).

7th January 2017

Assassination of ALDEMAR PARRA GARCÍA, peasant farmer and social leader of the community of El Hatillo, Weiler La Loma, El Paso, Central-Cesar, Colombia.

Background:

El Hatillo is a peasant farmer community in the municipality of El Paso, Weiler La Loma,  in the department of Cesar. For several generations, 190 families have been living within this territory. In 2010, the process of resettlement of the El Hatillo community began, against their will, due to the severe air pollution caused by the surrounding coal mines.

Since November 2016, the lives of community representatives have been in danger, following threats and allegations arising from their defense of human rights. After receiving these threats, they asked for security measures to be put in place by the national protection authorities (Unidad Nacional de Protección). Their request is still being processed.

Events:

On 7th January 2017, ALDEMAR PARRA GARCÍA was assassinated on the route from El Hatillo to La Loma. ALDEMAR was approximately 30 years old and father to three children – the third born only a short while ago. He was also the president of the regional beekeeping association ASOGRACE.
ALDEMAR was the nephew of the current president of the El Hatillo community action council (Junta de Acción Comunal), who himself has received death threats. ALDEMAR was a social leader who strengthened the regional beekeeping association ASOGRACE and was well known for his technical expertise.

At 3pm on 7th January, after going fishing in the River Calenturitas, ALDEMAR took the road towards La Loma. On the country road at the entrance to La Loma, at the height of the point called Mata e ́ Zorra, two men in helmets on a red ‘Discover’ motorbike with no license plates shot him three times in the back. ALDEMAR died immediately on the spot. The offenders fled in the direction of El Hatillo and continued on the road towards Casacará. Due to the fact that no valuable objects were taken, it is unlikely that robbery was the motive.

It is known that the motorbike had been on the road the whole day between El Hatillo and La Loma. The leaders of El Hatillo reported that the same motorbike was repeatedly seen in front of houses of the threatened community leaders including ALMEYS MEJIA ROJAS, ALFONSO ANTONIO MARTINEZ, MARINA MARTINEZ y DIANA FONSECA.

WE PUBLICLY CONDEMN THE ASSASSINATION OF ALDEMAR and we express our condolences to the family and the social leaders of the resettlement process.

In addition we ask the responsible authorities to immediately act and intervene as follows:
∙      The Office of Ombudsman of Colombia (Defensoría del Pueblo) and the early warning system (SAT) to intervene and to accompany the community. The responsible authorities should investigate the events and find the perpetrators.
∙      We urge the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (Fiscalía General de la Nación) to prosecute the crime. In addition, the responsibility for looking into the death threats against the community leaders should be transferred from EL Hatillo to Bogota.
∙      We ask the presidential commissioner for human rights (Consejería Presidencial de Derechos Humanos), in his role as the point of contact for the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. to critically accompany the investigations.
∙      We ask the national protection unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección) to conduct an analysis through their technical body (Cuerpo Técnico de Recopilación y Análisis de Información) to conclude the risk assessment for the social leaders of El Hatillo.

Respectfully,
Pensamiento y Acción Social – PAS
Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz Kolumbien – ASK
CoMundo

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