Tabaco has grown tired of waiting

On 17 October, while we in London were at the AGM of the world’s largest mining multinational, BHP, our friends from the small farming community of Tabaco in La Guajira, Colombia, undertook an occupation of the land that they were promised in 2008 as the site for the reconstruction of their village, which was violently evicted in 2001 to make way for the expansion of the Cerrejon coal mine, owned by BHP and two other London-listed mining companies, Anglo American and Glencore. The community issued the following statement. (The original Spanish version is below our English translation.)

Tabaco has grown tired of waiting

Seventeen years ago, the Colombian state and mining companies interested in the coal of the Colombian Guajira destroyed the physical and territorial infrastructure of the community of Tabaco in a process of dispossession that on August 9, 2001, culminated in a brutal and illegal forced eviction.

They robbed us of our community life: because of mining, the school disappeared, along with the health centre, the communications centre, the public roads, the cemetery, our neighbours and even the church, with the statue of the patron saint included.

They damaged our collective way of life and the harmony in which we lived. Along with the houses and belongings they took away our rights and the hope of the whole community to inhabit our territory and to build a common destiny.

These have been 17 years of forced displacement, of pain and suffering, of deaths due to the sadness of many of our old people, of anguish and illness caused by exile.

Although we have resorted to legal actions, to round tables of dialogue, to the shareholders’ meetings of Cerrejón’s owners in their headquarters to inform them about what is happening, our community is still dispersed in the department of La Guajira and outside of it. As wanderers we have yearned for the land snatched from us.

Cerrejón wants us to accept its deceptions as an answer. It has used its enormous power to silence our voices and fracture the community with lies and threats.

We have grown tired of it.

We are tired of waiting 17 years for the reconstruction which the Cerrejón company and the state, in the form of the municipality of Hatonuevo, are obliged to undertake.

These have been 17 years waiting for serious answers from those who destroyed Tabaco. 17 years in which we have encountered traps and words that only seek to maintain the corporate image of the Cerrejón company and that are far from meeting their responsibilities towards a community struck, violated and re-victimised by its mega-project of environmental devastation, death and contamination.

We have grown tired of it.

We do not know if getting tired is a right but even if it is not, it is the only thing we have left after so many years of waiting.

We are encouraged by the desire to one day see our united community once again occupying a place on earth, where the children sheltered by it can grow and where our dead have rest.

From this space chosen for the reconstruction of our community, we will continue to demand from Cerrejón the authentic fulfilment of its responsibilities for the comprehensive reparation of the damage that it has caused to us as well as the delivery of the necessary lands for the restoration of our chosen way of life.

We will continue to demand from the Colombian state that it fulfil its obligations transparently. If we are in this situation of abandonment and denial of rights, it is because the state has allowed it to happen, acting as an accomplice in the criminal actions of the company in displacing us and neglecting to protect us from the abuse of power of the company.

We ask the states of origin of the companies that own Cerrejón to assume their responsibilities in human rights, guaranteeing that the companies BHP, Glencore and Anglo American effectively make good the damages they have caused to our community and undertake the physical, social and cultural reconstruction of our town.

We ask the countries that are nourished by the energy of coal from La Guajiral to be aware of the true price of that mineral. With it they have taken our water, our air, our forests, our dreams, our future.

To the peoples, people and organizations of Colombia and the world that understand the situation of the Tabaco community, we open our arms to take refuge in their solidarity.

Community of Tabaco,
Hatonuevo – Guajira
October 18, 2018

 

Tabaco, se ha cansado de esperar

Hace 17 años el estado colombiano y los empresarios mineros interesados en el carbón de la Guajira colombiana, destruyeron la infraestructura física y territorial de la comunidad de Tabaco en un proceso de despojo que el 9 de agosto de 2001 recurrió a un brutal e ilegal desalojo a la fuerza.

Nos quitaron la vida comunitaria: al paso de la minería desaparecieron la escuela, el centro de salud, de comunicaciones, los caminos reales, el cementerio, nuestros vecinos y hasta la iglesia con el santo incluído.

Dañaron nuestro proyecto de vida colectivo y la armonía en que vivíamos. Junto con las casas y enseres se llevaron los derechos y la esperanza de toda una comunidad a habitar su territorio y a construir un destino común.

Son 17 años de desplazamiento forzado, de dolor y sufrimiento, de muertes por tristeza de muchos de nuestros viejos, de angustias y enfermedades producto del destierro.

A pesar de que hemos recurrido a acciones jurídicas, a mesas de diálogo, a las asambleas de accionistas de Cerrejón en sus casas matrices para informar sobre lo que pasa, nuestra comunidad sigue dispersa en el departamento de la Guajira y fuera de él. Errantes hemos esperado la tierra arrebatada.

Cerrejón pretende que aceptemos sus engaños como respuesta. Se ha valido de su enorme poder para silenciar nuestras voces y fracturar la comunidad con mentiras y amenazas.

Nos hemos cansado.

Nos cansamos de esperar 17 años la reconstrucción a que están obligados la la empresa Cerrejón y el estado en cabeza de la alcaldía de Hatonuevo.

Son 17 años esperando respuestas serías de quienes destruyeron a Tabaco. 17 años en que nos hemos encontrado con trampas y discursos que sólo buscan mantener la imagen corporativa de la empresa Cerrejón y que están lejos de atender sus responsabilidades hacia una comunidad golpeada, violentada y revictimizada por su megaproyecto de devastación ambiental, de muerte y contaminación.

Nos hemos cansado.

No sabemos si cansarse es un derecho pero aunque no lo sea, constituye lo único que nos queda luego de tantos años de espera.

Nos anima el deseo de ver un día nuevamente nuestra comunidad unida ocupando un lugar en la tierra, en donde puedan crecer los niños abrigados por ella y en donde nuestros muertos tengan reposo.

Desde este nuestro espacio para la reconstrucción, seguiremos exigiendo del Cerrejón el cumplimiento auténtico de sus responsabilidades a la _reparación integral_ por los daños que nos ha causado así como la entrega de las tierras necesarias para el restablecimiento de nuestro proyecto de vida.

Al estado colombiano seguiremos exigiendo también que asuma con transparencia sus obligaciones. Si estamos en esta situación de desamparo y negación de derechos es porque el estado lo ha permitido siendo cómplice del accionar criminal de la empresa al desplazarnos y negligente para protegernos del abuso de poder de ésta.

A los estados de origen de las empresas dueñas de Cerrejón, les solicitamos que asuman sus responsabilidades en derechos humanos garantizando que las empresas BHP Billingthon, Glencore-Xtrata y Anglo American respondan efectivamente por los daños que han causado a nuestra comunidad y asuman la reconstrucción física, social y cultural de nuestro pueblo.

A los países que se nutren de la energía del carbón de la Guajira les pedimos tomar conciencia del verdadero precio de ese mineral… Con él se han llevado nuestra agua, nuestro aire, nuestros bosques, nuestros sueños, nuestro futuro.

A los pueblos, personas y organizaciones de Colombia y el mundo que comprenden la situación de la comunidad de Tabaco, extendemos nuestros brazos para refugiarnos en su solidaridad.

_Comunidad de Tabaco_
Hatonuevo – Guajira
18 de octubre de 2018

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