COLOMBIA. People’s Court deliberated against Transnational in the Colombian Guajira

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Indigenous, peasant, Afro-descendent populations and guajiras from Las Casitas, El Oreganal, Roche, Majayura, Albania, among others, participated in the People’s Tribunal Against Transnational Companies, for the protection of water, land, air, peace and life.

Colombian communities, based on their experiences in their territories, put transnational companies on popular trial. On October 3rd and 4th, in the city of Riohacha, under the standards of truth, justice and reparation for victims, the people scrutinized those responsible for scourges committed irresponsibly by the large scale mining corporations in the region in order to find the truth behind their actions, and called for the ethical defense of Guajiro’s people and nature’s rights.

Human rights defenders and extractivism experts from Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Spain and Germany met in Riohacha to accompany and to intervene in the process, along with national politics personalities, such as former senators; Piedad Córdoba and Gloria Inés Ramírez, and representatives of the agrarian movement in Colombia such as Olga Lucía Quintero from the Cumbre Agraria Campesina, Étnica y Popular (Agrarian, Farmer, Ethnic and Popular Summit). They reunited in defense of the victims of extreme conditions and who suffer miserable living conditions due to mineral extraction, which is also creating an irreversible impact on the environment  – 60% of the GDP of this department is result of the excessive exploitation of natural resources and yet is not reflected in the population’s quality of life.

The People’s Court against Transnational in La Guajira had two important moments; on October 3rd, verification visits and humanitarian action, in which testimonies were received, cases were documented and they workshops regarding human rights, health, communications and childhood were offered to those affected by coal mining. On October 4th, the People’s Court was held. It prosecuted and condemned those responsible for the environmental and social problem that Guajiro’s people suffer. It also featured the intervention of the peace delegation from La Habana, Cuba, with the aim of building peace collectively.

José Lozano, member of the audience’s coordinating team, said that the Court focused on the presence of the coal mining company “El Cerrejón”, which has committed several violations of communities’ human rights, however,  allegations made ​​by the communities against other companies, like Chevron, were also taken into account.

“El Cerrejón” is the largest multinational company working in the region, with an extension of 159 square kilometers (61,39 square miles). This company “is the executioner of the communities” Lozano expressed. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations report that due to the activity of the company, people have suffered from lung disease and have been evicted from their homes, despite the acts of resistance from communities. Even though the communities have lodged a claim for legal protection against the company, they manipulate the legal process because they have direct influence over the administrative and judicial system.

According to this scenario, the crisis present in Guajira isn’t related to the phenomenon of “El Niño”, as some claim, but it is mostly a result of mining and energy policies established by the Colombian government, precariousness in the supply and management of water to the inhabitants, and natural alteration of water surface by “El Cerrejón”, which has diverted the Rachería river for the extraction of natural charcoal and could do the same to the Bruno Creek.

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