The huge Cerrejon opencast coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia, is currently owned by London-listed multinationals Anglo American, BHP and Glencore (though Glencore will assume complete control of the mine in 2022). It has a history of forced relocations of farming communities. Families at Papayal put out this urgent action in Spanish on 9 November. This English translation is by Holly Jones.
9 NOVEMBER 2021
URGENT ALERT: MULTINATIONAL CARBONES DEL CERREJÓN THREATENS TO DISPLACE RURAL FAMILIES FROM THE RANCHERíA RIVERBANK
WE CONDEMN THE ILLEGALITY, OUTRAGE, UNFAIRNESS AND ABUSES COMMITTED BY THE EXTRACTIVE MULTINATIONAL CARBONES DEL CERREJÓN, WHICH IS THREATENING TO DISPOSSESS US AND DISPLACE US FROM OUR LAND IN THE VILLAGE OF PAPAYAL IN THE BARRANCAS MUNICIPALITY, LA GUAJIRA
FOR THE ATTENTION OF:
The National Government, the Local Government of La Guajira, and the Mayor’s Office of Barracas
Comply with your obligations to respect, protect and uphold the fundamental rights of our rural community in the face of the serious risk of dispossession and forced displacement that we find ourselves in as a result of Carbones del Cerrejón’s actions.
To the Ombudsman’s Office, the Office of the Inspector General of Colombia and the Barrancas Municipal Administration:
Take all action necessary to guarantee the protection of our community’s fundamental rights. Urgently put out an early alert on the danger we are facing. Promote necessary actions to prevent the further displacement of our community. Monitor and supervise the actions of Carbones del Cerrejón, which is responsible for the danger we are facing.
- We are a group of rural farming families that have lived peacefully and openly for many generations on the Ranchería riverbank in the village of Papayal bordering the Indigenous Wayúu Provincial Reserve in the municipality of Barrancas, La Guajira. This territory was inhabited by our ancestors, and the fruits of their labours made this land what it is, with our wattle and daub houses creating a small community.
- Today, 9 November 2021, a lawyer and employees from Carbones del Cerrejón, subsidiary of Swiss multinational Glencore, came to our territory with police inspectors from the Barrancas Mayor’s Office. They threatened us saying that they will begin proceedings to evict us from our land and that a visual inspection is planned for 10 November 2021 from 8:30am. It’s clear that an irregular and abusive process is taking place in which they are trying to present us as a disturbance on our own land – land which we have lived and worked on for more than 80 years.
- These abuses are premised on the irregular selling off of land by Mrs María Rosa Hernández Argüelles, who has produced what we consider to be fraudulent documents about our land which are not applicable. From there we have come to be subject to serious attacks, threats, abuse and human rights violations where we’ve had our houses torn down and burned with all our belongings inside in order to evict us and dispossess us by force.
- Behind these abuses and illegal acts is Carbones del Cerrejon, who via its employee Salvador Raad, Mrs María Rosa Hernández’s brother-in-law, has negotiated the illegitimate sale to the mine of our ancestors’ land. It is now making use of its immense corporate power in the region to threaten us with the dispossession of our territory.
- It is important to note that before the multinational bought our territory, many of our families made the company aware of the irregularities in Mrs María Rosa Hernández’s attempts to dispossess us of land that neighbouring communities are well aware has belonged to our families for generations.
- Despite having proof that we have lived on our land for decades, that many generations of ours have lived here, they have redoubled their harassment and attempts to evict us. We find ourselves in an extremely vulnerable position. Our land has never been for sale. Therefore, we reject any sale that has been processed on our territory which has ignored our wishes. No sale of our territory can be considered legitimate, and much less used to evict us.
- Our families which live on these lands are not invading nor disturbing – acts which we have been slanderously and falsely accused of. On the contrary, we are farming families, some of us victims of forced displacement, with children and we have peacefully lived and worked on our land for decades. It is not right to have what is ours stolen.
- We demand that they cease the harassment and violation of our fundamental rights. We demand that our right to remain on our territory is protected, and that all necessary measures are taken to avoid the displacement of our community, as has happened to other Guajira communities that have been victims of removal from their land because of the abusive actions of Carbones del Cerrejón.
Because of the imminent risk we face of being displaced from our land driven by the multinational Carbones del Cerrejón, we make the following urgent calls:
- We ask the National Government for protections to prevent us from being evicted and our fundamental rights from being infringed.
- We ask the Ombudsman’s Office, the Office of the Inspector General of Colombia and the Barrancas Municipal Administration to immediately get alongside the community, to carry out monitoring of the events we condemn here, and to take attentive and protective measures for our community.
- We demand that as the main civil authority, in accordance with its constitutional and legal obligations, the Barrancas Mayor’s Office and its police forces guarantee our community’s ability to remain on our land.
- We demand that the National Land Agency and other relevant government bodies carry out investigations into the irregular selling off of our territory and provide corresponding consultation to get the recognition of our right to ownership of the land we live on.
- We urgently call on the entire national and international community, and on human rights organisations, for solidarity and support in demanding that the Colombian authorities respect the fundamental rights of our community.