Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -


Editorial: Uribe Opts for War and Invites Intervention Print
Bulletin archive - Issue10 - April - June 2003
Tuesday, 01 April 2003 01:00

The US/UK invasion of Iraq and Colombia's civil war are part of the same story; two fronts in the global war to dominate the world's people and its resources.

The six Latin American countries that support the US intervention in Iraq are themselves either receiving US military aid, or are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the US -they are Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Panama. Colombia’s President Álvaro Uribe Vélez is the only South American leader who supports the war on Iraq. And, remarkably, his government invites intervention into Colombia.

"Drug traffic and terrorism are potentially a larger threat than Iraq and should be challenged through a similar military deployment to the one in the Persian Gulf," Uribe said in Quito, Ecuador on 15th January 2003. Referring to the mobilisation of the 300,000 soldiers to invade Iraq, he added "Why not think of a similar force to put an end to this problem..? Our problem may be more serious than Iraq, because our conflict may finish off the Amazonian rainforest".

This same message was repeated by Vice-President Francisco Santos: "Similar to the deployment in Iraq, which we support, we have been asked when will we see a similar action from the international community to aid Colombian democracy". These pleas to the "international community" are directed at Bush and Blair, a point that Santos made clear when he came to London in March, seeking intelligence co-operation and other forms of military assistance from the British.

The Colombian government wants US and UK help in plunging its own country further into war, and it wants to do it quickly. Why is that?

Behind Calls for Military Intervention - Economic Crisis

The security crisis and economic crisis are inextricably connected. Uribe is doubling spending on the military. To help pay for this, in January he negotiated a $2 billion stand-by credit with the IMF which has in turn released a further $11 billion of loans, putting Colombia evermore into the hands of international creditors and the country’s own financial elite. Servicing the public debt has already become a major item in the state's annual budget, 36.5% in 2002. In the first 6 months of Uribe's presidency alone, the peso dropped 26% against the US dollar. With more than half of the public debt denominated in dollars, this means that in peso terms Colombia owed 13% more in March than it did last September!

Uribe is desperate to attract inflows of foreign capital, to avert ever more rapid devaluation of the peso and hence ballooning, unsustainable debt repayments. But finance capital sets its terms. The IMF sees the excess of state expenditure over income, the fiscal deficit, as the cause of the crisis whereas it is its expression. The cause is the ever increasing dominance over government policy of the creditor's demands.

There are only two cures for this ill. The Bush-IMF-Uribe solution and the people's solution. The first kills the patient, the second kills the disease.

The Bush-IMF-Uribe solution is to do away with Colombia's 'state of social right' proclaimed in the 1991 Constitution and embodied in the limited gains of public sector provision. The new government's first move was a package of cutbacks to labour and pension rights, and regressive tax reforms. Uribe's highly complex referendum proposal is the second phase. The third phase was introduced in Congress in March, a 4 year National Development Plan for which Uribe has adopted the catch phrase of the 'communitarian state'.

Communitarianism was originally a progressive social philosophy that arose with the Diggers in the seventeenth century English revolution. The idea became quite popular in US universities in the early 1990s and re-entered into the political mainstream through Clinton. Communitarians argue that there is such a thing as society, based on communities of individuals with rights and responsibilities. But with each new incarnation, communitarianism has become evermore reactionary. Uribe's communitarian state is asymmetric - the rich are the only community that matters - and it is authoritarian, a call to mobilise the support of the property owning classes, to commit resources to the war effort, to fulfil their responsibilities as the condition for enjoying wealth. And it is a camouflage for his assault on working class, indigenous, black and poor peasant communities.

Social democracy is being systematically destroyed in Colombia, and right now the public sector is the principal battleground. In one state corporation after another managers are refusing to participate in annual negotiations on the basis of Collective Agreements established for the last ten years or more. The most public example is the state oil corporation ECOPETROL. For months now Colombia's mass media have been waging a campaign of denigration against the oilworkers’ union USO and its Collective Agreement.

Uribe's underlying policy is to strip away all collective social and labour rights, especially where they have been consolidated by union power. His ‘communitarianism’ will end the relatively stable conditions of state sector workers, slashing their wages down to the legal minimum, massive job cuts and privatisation. It is a policy to end workers' dignity through destruction of their collectivity. Health, telecommunications, public utilities (SINTRAEMCALI), education are all under attack, and are developing a united resistance.

Colombia has entered a new phase

As with all radical right projects, there is a risk for Uribe and his backers. The economic crisis is driving attacks focussed on unionised state workers, but the very nature of their relationship with the communities they serve means that attacks could generate a broad and militant popular response.
Political opposition to the referendum is growing. Despite all the assassinations, the campaign for active abstention has already broken the fear barrier, the regime's weapon of psychological intimidation. Added to this, and as has been seen in Bolivia, resistance to privatisation of water services carries the potential of widespread social revolt.

Uribe's government is prepared to sell his country off to the multinationals, but what multinationals? While the US pushes for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Europe is using the GATS round to push for full market access for its companies. Jockeying over the FTAA is certainly leading to tensions with Colombia's neighbours. Uribe's dependency on the US means that he is inclined to break with Latin American solidarity.

In what direction is Colombia heading? Colombia's rulers want a bilateral deal with Washington. Uribe intends to duplicate the Mexico maquiladora story. New jobs, but under the rule of North American capital employing a defeated, non-unionised workforce. But such "constructive destruction" is a hard trick to pull. Uribe has to guarantee secure conditions for direct investment, and he has to do it quickly before the debts mount to impossible levels.

The invitation to intervention, the war drive against the guerrillas, has an economic imperative. Uribe has to simultaneously defeat the armed resistance and civilian resistance to provide acceptable conditions for the multinationals. More likely is the Argentina scenario, uncontrolled capital flight wrecking millions of middle class lives, as well as tens of millions of the poor - meltdown.

Which only leaves the peoples' solution. Two years ago when we started this Campaign, Colombia was the last piece in the US neo-liberal contintental jig-saw. How times have changed! Today, in country after country, the peoples of Latin America are fighting back, their demands are reflected in governments that, to some degree or another, have to stand up to the USA. There are real grounds for hope, for a united alliance against imperialism.

No to Military Intervention! Yes to Peace!
No to Privatisation! Yes to Public Services!
Solidarity with the Colombian People!

Uribe opta por la Guerra e invita a la Intervención

La invasión a Irak de parte de los Estados Unidos y Gran Bretaña junto con la guerra civil de Colombia forman parte de la misma historia; dos frentes de la guerra global para dominar al mundo, sus gentes y sus recursos.

Los seis países latinoamericanos que apoyan la intervención de Estados Unidos en Irak son los mismos que reciben ayuda militar de los Estados Unidos o que se encuentran negociando el Tratado de Libre Comercio con este país- son Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Republica Dominicana y Panamá. Álvaro Uribe Vélez es el único líder sudamericano que apoya la guerra contra Irak. No solo eso, su gobierno ha invitado a la intervención en Colombia “… el narcotráfico y el terrorismo son una amenaza potencialmente mas seria que Irak y debería ser combatida con un despliegue militar similar al del Golfo Pérsico”, dijo Uribe en Quito, Ecuador el 15 de enero del 2003. En relación con la movilización de 300.000 soldados para invadir a Irak añadió; “¿Por que no pensar en una fuerza similar para terminar este problema? Nuestro problema es tal vez mas serio que el de Irak, ya que nuestro conflicto puede acabar con la selva amazónica.”

Este mensaje lo repitió el Vice-Presidente Francisco Santos, “un despliegue similar al de Irak, el cual apoyamos, se nos ha preguntado cuando veremos una acción similar de la comunidad internacional para apoyar a la democracia colombiana.” Estos llamados a la “comunidad internacional” se dirigentanto a Blair como a Bush, punto que Santos expresó claramente cuando estuvo en Londres en Marzo, solicitando cooperación de inteligencia y otras formas de asistencia militar al gobierno británico. El gobierno colombiano desea que los Estados Unidos y Gran Bretaña lo ayude a hundir a su propio país en mas guerra y quiere hacerlo pronto. ¿Por qué?

Lo que hay detrás de las solicitudes de una intervención militar- La Crisis Económica

La crisis de seguridad en Colombia y la crisis fiscal están intrínsicamente ligadas. El Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez ha duplicado el gasto en materia militar. En enero Uribe negoció un crédito con el FMI, el cual a su vez ha generado más de 11 billones de dólares en préstamos. Esto ha situado a Colombia, aun más, en las manos de sus acreedores internacionales y el elite financiero colombiano. Cumplir con la deuda externa se ha convertido en el gran tema del presupuesto anual de la nación. En 2002, el 36.5% del presupuesto se gastó en el cumplir con esta deuda. Solo en los primeros seis meses del periodo de Uribe, el peso ha sufrido una devaluación del 26% frente al dólar. ¡Con mas de la mitad de la deuda externa denominada en dólares, esto implica que en pesos Colombia debe 13% mas de lo que debía en septiembre pasado!

Uribe necesita desesperadamente atraer flujos de dinero desde el extranjero para así fortalecer el peso y evitar una devaluación mas acelerada. Sin embargo, el capital financiero dicta sus normas. El FMI ve el déficit fiscal, o sea el gasto excesivo del estado comparado con los ingresos, como la causa de la crisis. En cambio esto no es la causa sino la expresión de la misma. La causa es que las demandas de los acreedores han ganado mucho terreno y fuerza en las políticas del gobierno.

Solo existen dos curas para esta enfermedad. La solución Bus-FMI-Uribe y la solución del pueblo. La primera mata al paciente y la segunda a la enfermedad.

La solución Bus-FMI-Uribe es librarse del “estado de derecho” proclamado en Colombia en la constitución de 1991 y personificarlo con las ganancias limitadas que el sector público provee. El primer movimiento del nuevo gobierno fue un paquete de recortes en los derechos laborales y pensionales, y una reforma tributaria aprobada. La segunda fase es una propuesta de referendo muy compleja. El tercer elemento de la ofensiva de Uribe fue presentado en el Congreso de la República el 4 de marzo. El Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, para el cual Uribe ha elegido el eslogan de “Estado Comunitario”. El Comunitarismo fue originalmente una filosofía social progresiva que surgió con los “Diggers” (excavadores) en el siglo XVII durante la revolucion inglesa. Esta filosofía se hizo muy popular en las universidades estadounidenses al principio de los 90s y apareció en la política tradicional gracias a Clinton. La idea principal es aquella de que la comunidad es la que tiene la responsabilidad y el interés en la toma de decisiones por el bien común de todos y todas.

Pero con cada nueva reencarnación, el comunitarismo se ha vuelto cada vez más reaccionario. El comunitarismo estatal de Uribe es asimétrico-los ricos son la única comunidad que interesa- y es autoritario, es un llamado a la movilización para apoyar a las clases poseedoras de los bienes, a comprometer los recursos en el frente de guerra, a cumplir con sus responsabilidades como condición para disfrutar la riqueza. Al mismo tiempo es un camuflaje para su asalto a los derechos de las comunidades de la clase obrera, los indígenas, comunidades negras, pobres y campesinas.

La democracia social esta siendo sistemáticamente destrozada en Colombia y el sector estatal es el principal campo de batalla. Empresario tras empresario se niega a participar en las negociaciones anuales sobre la Convención Colectiva de Trabajo establecida hace más de diez años. El ejemplo más claro es la empresa del petróleo del estado Ecopetrol, la cual ha presentado sus propias contra demandas. Por meses los medios de comunicación colombianos han llevado una campaña de desprestigio contra los trabajadores petroleros sindicados a la USO y a su convención colectiva.
La principal política del gobierno actual es acabar con todas las convenciones colectivas y derechos laborales, principalmente donde los trabajadores estén representados por la fuerza sindical. El estado comunitario de Uribe acabará con sectores de la población que habían adquirido una cierta vida digna, cortando sus salarios al mínimo legal a través de privatizaciones y despidos. Es una política para acabar con la dignidad de los trabajadores a través de la destrucción de su colectividad. Salud, comunicaciones, servicios públicos (SINTRAEMCALI), educación y otras instituciones del sector estatal están bajo amenaza, y están preparando una resistencia unificada.

Colombia ha entrado en una nueva fase

Como con todos los proyectos radicales hay un riesgo para Uribe y los que le apoyan. La crisis económica está llevando estos ataques hacia los sindicatos de los trabajadores estatales, pero la naturaleza de estos ataques podría generar una respuesta popular masiva. La oposición política al referendo está creciendo. A pesar de los asesinatos, la campaña por la abstención activa ha roto ya la barrera del miedo, el arma del gobierno que consiste en la intimidación psicológica. Para añadir y como lo hemos visto en Bolivia, resistencia a la privatización de los servicios de agua lleva el potencial de una revuelta social.

La imagen se complica aún más en el contexto internacional. El gobierno de Uribe está preparado para vender su país a las multinacionales, pero ¿a qué multinacionales? Mientras Estados Unidos, empuja por un Área Libre de Comercio para las Américas (ALCA), Europa está usando los GATS para el acceso total al mercado a través de sus multinacionales. La competencia sobre el ALCA está causando tensiones con los vecinos de Colombia. La dependencia de Uribe a los Estados Unidos significa que se dirige hacia la ruptura con la solidaridad Latinoamericana. La clase dirigente colombiana ahora busca un acuerdo bilateral con Washington.

¿En que dirección Colombia va Colombia? Uribe intenta duplicar la historia de las maquiladoras en México. Nuevos empleos pero bajo la dirección del capital multinacional que emplea una fuerza de trabajo derrotada y sin sindicalizar. Pero la destrucción constructiva es un duro hueso de roer. Uribe tiene que garantizar las condiciones seguras para la inversión, y tiene que hacerlo pronto antes que la deuda aumente a niveles insostenibles, por eso su guerra contra la guerrilla se ha convertido en un imperativo económico. Uribe tiene que vencer simultáneamente a la resistencia armada y a la resistencia civil para crear suficientes condiciones positivas para que las multinacionales obtengan sus beneficios. Sin embargo, el panorama argentino es el escenario más posible. El capital descontrolado vuela fuera del país arruinando las vidas de millones de ciudadanos de clase media así como la de más de 10 millones de pobres – la debacle.

Lo único que queda es la solución del pueblo. Hace dos años, cuando iniciamos esta Campaña, Colombia era la ultima pieza del rompecabezas continental del neoliberalismo gringo. ¡Como han cambiado los tiempos! Hoy, país tras país, los pueblos latinoaméricanos estan resistiendo, sus exigencias se ven reflejadas en gobiernos que, de algun modo u otro, tienen que enfrentarse a los Estados Unidos. Hay verdaderas razones para tener esperanzas de que se forme una alianza unida contra el_imperialismo.

¡No a la Intervención Militar! Sí a la Paz!
¡No a la Privatización! Sí a los Servicios Públicos!
¡Solidaridad con los colombianos!


Delegation blog

CSC Delegation 2011
Colombia Solidarity Campaign Delegaton - September 2011



    Protest about lack of hospital resources, dispersed by gas in front of the hospital.


    56 year old hospital being run down – ready for privatisation?

    Hospital administration accused of corruption and bleeding hospital funds dry, December 2010

    El Hospital Universitario del Valle is in financial difficulties, cannot supply medicines and other equipment, is not paying staff on time or at all, and may be heading for closure. It is said that Lina Morena, the wife of ex-president Uribe, is interested in buying it. This is very shocking news, as the HUV is a huge, public and well-respected teaching hospital, with links to the public university, the Universidad del Valle, close by.

    There will be no alternatives in the whole region for patients or students, in medicine and related professions like physiotherapy. Staff at the hospital, the majority of whom are women, are likely to lose their jobs.

    On 16 February 2011, HUV workers held another demonstration to protest the lack of money to run the hospital.

    Regarding the confrontation that developed in the street in front of the hospital, Dr Laureano Quintero questioned the use of the police, given that two of those affected were patients, and six belonged to the hospital staff. A list of wounded is given below.

  • Jazmín Gamboa, secretaria de consulta externa: en evaluación de cirugía por trauma facial.
  • Paola Villarreal, auxiliar de oficina: trauma en pierna derecha.
  • Katerine Muñoz, auxiliar de oficina: herida en tórax.
  • Jersaín Labrado, vigilante: herida en tórax.
  • José Luis Rodríguez, transeúnte: trauma en abdomen.
  • Gustavo de la Cruz, transeúnte: trauma en pierna izquierda.
  • Carmen Albán, auxiliar de enfermería: trauma en pierna izquierda.
  • Deyanira Chagüendo, auxiliar de servicios generales: contusión en el hueso sacro.
  • Aceneth Escobar, auxiliar de esterilización: trauma en seno derecho.
  • Luis Eduardo Ibarra, mensajero y dirigente sindical: trauma en tórax.

  • Women's organisations, through the Red Mucem network, are closely involved in resisting the closure, alongside two unions, SINSPUBLIC and SINTRAHOSPICLINICAS. However, maybe as a warning, two 13 to 14 year-old girls, one the daughter of a woman activist, 'disappeared', and were found after a search by activists on the outskirts of the town. They had been raped.

    Poor people will be disproportionately affected by the running down, closure or privatisation of their public hospital, as will black people and also women, all the majority users of the public hospital facilities.

    Police snatch hospital worker, July 2011

    According to the medical director of the hospital, Laureano Quintero, tear gas was used, scaring patients and visitors in the early hours of the morning. Children and adults had to be evacuated from the emergency ward. The protest left five people wounded.

    The Mayor of Cali, Jorge Iván Ospina, in the face of continuous demonstrations by the hospital workers, has requested the setting up of a truth commission in order to clarify what was going on within the hospital.

    More news to follow later.....
  • How to make bio-ehtanol at home

    HOW TO MAKE BIO-ETHANOL AT HOME – watch this video!

    Why make fuel at home?

    60% of people's earnings round the world go to pay for food, petrol and electricity. This is the pattern in Villa Rica too. We believe that making our own fuel, and growing our own food, and generating our own electricity from sun and wind, will mean that 60% of our outgoings will be covered, using the least resources possible. This is an important part of building our community.

    How did we make it?

    For how we made the bio-ethanol, watch the video – which we hope will shortly be subtitled in English. The most important point about this process is that it involves generation of fuel from vegetable and fruit waste, with a little sweet content from cane juice, plus maize and yeast. No chemicals are added at all, before, during or after the 7-day fermentation process, which takes place before cooking.

    How will we use the fuel?

    In 2009, some of us decided that the community had had enough of the dirty, unreliable and expensive water provided by Central Acueducto del Cauca. We started digging wells, and now nearly every house in Villa Rica has their own well, powered by motobomba, like an outboard motor and which runs on electricity or petrol, to suck up the water.

    Before going ahead with this project, we had consulted the elders, who had told us of holes that they used to dig to irrigate their farms. We went ahead, and dug the holes deep within our own houses, but narrow enough not to endanger little children. This was the first project inspired by Haga Que Pase – Make it Happen – and before Mi Fink.

    We think that the motobombas, as well as motor cars and bikes, can be adapted to run on ethanol, which can also be used for cooking. We are also investigating sun and wind power.

    Final note..........

    Visitors to Villa Rica may be surprised to see that the town is nearly totally surrounded by massive sugarcane plantations, which are attempting, by all means possible, to replace the people's traditional farms. The sugar is mainly used for supplying the biofuel industry.


  • Responsible Mining?
    Cerrejon claim to be the largest open cast coal mine in the world. It also claims to be a pioneer in exceeding social, environmental and labour standards. At our meeting today with Cerrejon executives, which included a tour of the central zone, a Cerrejon official confided with us: “We mine responsibly not only because we want to, but also because it is makes business sense. We believe that customers from Europe and North America will opt for our responsibly mined coal, compared to our competitors with less stringent standards.”

    Cerrejon's owners, mining giants BHP Billiton, XStrata and AngloAmerican recently announced an expansion of the mining operations from 30 million tonnes last year to 40 million tonnes by the end of 2015. This would involve redirecting the Rancheria river, the main river that flows from the Santa Marta mountains and provides La Guajira department with water, over a 26Km stretch. Despite this, Cerrejon claims that by means of a process of relocating the flora and fauna in the riverbed, the environmental impact can be mitigated. 115 communities comprising 7000 people live downstream, and will likely suffer from a decrease in water supply and contamination of their drinking water. Being Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, they are legally entitled to a consultation process, and Cerrejon have repeatedly stated that the project will only go ahead with the consent of the communities. How Cerrejon will ascertain that it has obtained consent is less clear though.

    Despite last year paying 493.7 million USD in royalties, and 882 million USD in taxes, the poverty in the region (outside the luxury Cerrejon compound) suggests that these do not benefit locals much. Cerrejon considers that this is due to corruption at the local level, and its response has been to create a CSR programme to strengthen local government institutions. La Guajira has become economically dependent on the Cerrejon, which alone contributed to 41% of its GDP. Not expanding the mining operation would cause serious crisis for the local economy, which has become dependent on it, Cerrejon argues. To decrease this dependency, its reponse has been to create a CSR programme to promote entrepreneurship and diversification of economic activity in the region. However, they seem to overlook that fact that the scale of the proposed expansion is likely to only further increase La Guajira's dependence on coal mining.

    Responsible mining? It is unlikely that the former residents of Tabaco, an Afro-descendant farming village, would agree. Brutally evicted to make way for the mining operations in late 2001 and early 2002, residents who refused to leave had their homes bulldozed before their eyes, and were then forcefully removed by police and riot police. But that was before, a Cerrejon executive tells us. Since Leon Teicher became president of Cerrejon, they have changed and become truly responsible, he assures us.

    CSC is grateful for the invitation from PAS, ASK and FIAN for its members to participate in their delegation in Cesar and La Guajira.
  • Images of Coal Mines in Cesar

    Loading Coal onto Orihueca train

    Piles of Waste rock

    Piles of Waste rock

  • Visiting Coal Mining Communities in Cesar
    Today we visited the communities of El Hatillo, Plan Bonito and Boqueron in Cesar, located in the vicinity of La Francia, El Descanso and Calenturitas mines. On our journey from Valledupar we passed kilometres of African Palm. Slowly, these gave way to a more arid, dusty landscape, with piles of rock waste from the mines in the area, which have completely encroached these communities, literally suffocating them with coal dust.

    We witnessed poverty and a lack of social investment in basic services: The dilapidated school has a few old desks, there are no health services, the water is not potable, and there is no municipal rubbish collection. Instead, we were welcomed by piles of rubbish at the entrance of the village, which has become a makeshift tip. This is in stark contrast to the mineral riches being extracted less than a mile away, and loaded onto the trains that run through Orihueca. One cannot help wondering where the royalties went that should, first and foremost, be benefiting these communities.

    The mining operation has taken a toll on people's health, who reported respiratory illnesses, itchy and swollen eyes, and an high incidence of miscarriages. Formerly a fertile, agricultural community, where lemons and mangoes grew in abundance, the contamination means nothing grows on this land anymore. People also lost access to land which they used for farming and hunting due to the expansion of the mines; fishing is also no longer possible.

    The mines plan to expand further. People are currently living in fear, desperation and uncertainly, since they will have to leave their village soon. The deadline is theoretically in 10 day's time, and they have no idea where they will end up living, or what kind of compensation they will receive. These people have been totally neglected by the state, and nobody has been adequately informed of their legal rights. They will most likely receive payouts based on the current value of the land, which has become completely contaminated as a result of the mining operations, and will struggle to find a suitable alternative to live. In past evictions in La Guajira, people have ended up living in shanty towns outside larger settlements like Riohacha or Barrancas, losing their livelihood and right to live in a dignified manner.

    Arriving in El Hatillo

    House in El Hatillo

    School playground with piles of wasterock in background
  • The Coal Train in Orihueca, Magdalena
    Members of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign accompanied a delegation organized by FIAN, Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz Kolumbien (ASK) and Paz y Accion Social (PAS) to visit the village of Orihueca, in the department of Magdalena, in the Zona Bananera so famously depicted by Gabriel Garcia's Marquez's novels. Local residents, whose homes are along the same railway line that was used to transport bananas to the port of Santa Marta during the era of the United Fruit Company, now face a severe deterioration in their quality of life due to constant freight trains transporting coal from Glencore, Vale and Drummond mines in the neighbouring Cesar department.

    The coal trains run approximately every 20 minutes day and night right outside people's doorsteps. Each carriage of the train carries approximately 70 tonnes of coal, and a train has between 90 and 140 carriages. There are severe effects on the health of these residents due to coal dust and noise of the trains. Vibrations of these freight trains also caused structural damage to houses in the vicinty of the railway line. Accidents have happened: a child on a bicycle was killed when crossing the line, which does not have any type of warning system or barrier to warn that a train is coming. The fact that the line has been slightly elevated also means that homes next to the line are prone to flooding after strong rains. Given that the line is 270Km long, a similar story repeats itself along numerous other settlements that are bisected by the line.

    Complaints by residents have been met with deaf ears by Fenoco, the railway operator jointly-owned by the three mining companies concerned. Amid concern that expansion of the coal mines will lead to more trains, when communties threatened to block the railway line to raise awareness of the issues they are facing, a sinister leaflet was distributed to members of the community by Fenoco.

    Such a blatant disregard for health and safety and lack of respect for human life would be unthinkable in the United Kingdom or Germany (where much of the coal transported ends up being burned in power plants), and such a chaotic setup contrasts sharply with impeccably-organized Switzerland (where Glencore is from). Such a modus operandi would be unacceptable in any European or North American country, so why should this happen in Colombia? Why aren't the supposed royalties being spent to at least resolve some of even the most basic issues?
  • Valledupar Mining Forum
    Members of CSC attended a forum in Valledupar on 3-4 September about forced resettlement of communities affected by mining in the Cesar and La Guajira departments.


London Mining Network


The London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, development and environmental groups. We pledge to expose the role of companies, funders and government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects.