One of our friends in La Guajira, Colombia – Jakeline Romero – who has long-opposed the British-owned Cerrejón coal mine, has just received death threats over her opposition to the mine. We must draw attention to her and our other friends in the region, who have taken their lives in their hands by standing up to London-listed mine owners BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore over the destruction of Wayúu communities and territories.
The Cerrejón mine is one of the largest open pit coal mines in Latin America. In the past fifteen years, five communities have been destroyed to allow for mine expansion and a local river, the Arroyo Bruno, is now under threat. Besides being owned by British companies, the mine is also a major supplier of coal burnt in UK power stations. It is critical that those of us in the UK act to hold these companies – and the UK government – to account for the impacts of their operations in Colombia.
Below is a translation of the report from The Strength of the Wayúu Women Movement (Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayúu). Please stand up and don’t let Jakeline stand alone.
Living Wetiko from Dakus Films, featuring Jakeline Romero Epiayu and Samuel Arregoces (who also reports being under death threats) speaking out against the mine.
Death Threat received by Wayúu leader Jakeline Romero
Threats received by Wayúu leader at the Wayúu Indigenous Reserve of Zahino, part of The Strength of the Wayúu Women Movement (Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayúu)
The Strength of the Wayúu Women Movement (Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayuú), together with the Wayúu Indigenous Reserve of El Zahino, address the National and International Public, Institutions of the Colombian State, Public Ministries, NGOs and Social Organisations in light of the surge of Human Rights violations against Human Rights defenders in times of Peace in Colombia.
At 18:49 of the 13th of December 2016 Ms Jakeline Romero Epiayu, a Wayúu woman of the Indigenous Reserve of El Zahino, received via text message to her personal phone a death threat against her and her family which reads: “Mind your own business and stay out of trouble, your daughters are very precious think about them, you f**king harmful b**ch stay out of trouble because I’ll disappear even your own mother if you continue to open your mouth.” The harsh words arrived from an undisclosed sender who left only an unidentified telephone number.
The act took place while the victim was assisting a multi-sector working group on the to Right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with other indigenous organisations, State and international bodies in the city of Cartagena.
The events have been made known to Attorney General of Colombia as well as State officials capable of instigating the necessary investigations, notwithstanding the alarming increase of such events in the lives of indigenous women and Human Rights defenders in southern Guajira, Colombia.
It is very worrying that in times when indigenous peoples – especially the women – have been a historic part of building the peace process in Colombia, that these disgraceful acts keep happening more and more in the most vulnerable regions of our nation.
This death threat is the latest in a series that the victim and her family have suffered since 2005, including threats to Jakeline’s sister, Jazmín Romero Epiayu in 2012 and her daughter Génesis Gutiérrez, who was 15 years old at the time when she was previously threatened in 2014. These violations were all reported to the relevant authorities and until present day persist in total impunity. As such, the Strength of Wayúu Women Movement continues to denounce these acts to the relevant State authorities.
Wayúu women and leaders currently find themselves in a particularly threatening and vulnerable situation for speaking out about the issues affecting Wayúu indigenous people: violations of human rights and the rights of Mother Earth, the precarious situation of Wayúu victims of the armed conflict; and the continued impoverishment abetted by corruption, which disproportionately affects women and children. Urgent action must be taken to protect the lives of these women and leaders.
Making reference to all of the aforementioned, the Strength of Wayúu Women and the Wayúu Indigenous Reserve of El Zahino of the municipality of Barrancas, Southern Guajira, reject the threats made against the life and personal integrity of the leader Jakeline Romero Epiayu, and make the following demands:
- To the official investigating bodies, such as the Attorney General of the Nation, to whom the facts have been presented, for an immediate investigation into the origins of the threatening message sent to leader Jakeline Romero Epiayu.
- To the National Government of Colombia, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice and their Programme for Protection, that they urgently enforce collective protection for the members of the organisation The Strength of Wayúu Women (Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayuú), who despite previous denunciations of similar events that threaten their lives, continue to live in conditions of imminent risk.
- To international organisations that oversee the protection of Human Rights, such as the High Commission of the United Nations for Human Rights in Colombia, that they comply with their mandate and insist that the Colombian State fulfil its obligations of providing protection to indigenous women and all Human Rights defenders.
- To all international Human Rights organisations and diplomatic bodies in Colombia we make a call of solidarity to join us and show your open rejection of such events and insist that the Colombian authorities provide immediate protection for the life of the indigenous leader Jakeline Romero Epiayu and the Wayúu women that find themselves in imminent risk.
- To the National Unit for Protection, calling upon decree 4633 and 4912 of 2011 and constitutional court orders of Act 004 of 2009, that immediate means of protection are provided for leader Jakeline Romero Epiayu.
- To the National Unit for Protection, that they study the levels of risk to our organisation, The Strength of Wayúu Women (Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayúu) and those of the Wayúu Indigenous Reserve of El Zahino in the Municipality of Barrancas, southern Guajira, with a view to providing adequate security respective to the level of risk ascertained – especially when acting in defence of territory and when denouncing Human Rights violations already suffered.
- To the National Unit for Care and Holistic Reparations for Victims, in accordance with its competencies under decree 4633 of 2011, may departmental and municipal responsibility be taken to provide all the guarantees accorded by law to safeguard the life and personal integrity of the leader of the Wayuu community Jakeline Romero Epiayu, who has personally been securing both the inclusion of the Zahino Reserve in the Single Registry of Victims and the validation of their status as Collective Subjects for Reparation.
- To the Public Ministry (Attorney General of the Nation, Ombudsman and the relevant Municipal Authority) to make all necessary efforts to guarantee the relevant entities and institutions will take due diligence in safeguarding the rights of Jakeline Romero Epiayu and her family.
- To the Presidential Program for Human Rights to create strategies and take actions for the holistic development and protection of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia, so that, within the scope of its function, it can steer the relevant bodies to which the case has been presented to and attend holistically to the person affected by the described facts.
- To the Constitutional Court that it receive this report as a case to be studied in the accordance with decree 004 of 2009, recognising both the current and rising frequency of threatening acts that clearly violate the individual and collective rights of the Wayúu People.
- To the international agencies and other civil society organizations in solidarity with the Indigenous communities facing human rights violations, that they visibilize, denounce and resist the present situation and demand that the Colombian State take the necessary actions to guarantee and protect rights which have been violated.
Indigenous Peoples, and in particular the Women, give birth to human beings for the construction of peace in the World.
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Translation by Christian Obregón MM and Stephanie Jaramillo.
For ongoing Spanish updates and original statement text.