On February 14th, the ESMAD (riot police) violently removed fish-people, small scale miners, day workers and campesinos that were legally residing along the Magdalena River in Domingo Arias in Paicol which resulted in the brutalizing and forced removal of 600 people. Seven people injured including one you man who lost their right eye. This first day was a direct order from the Mayor of Paicol while the following day the Mayor of Gigante repeatedly claimed he has not issued a removal order.
On the following day in La Honda, Gigante, shock grenades and tear gas was used against few dozen fish-people who held their ground. Two people fell in the river and were believed drowned only to be found hours later down river, one of those who fell in remain serious condition. Italian journalist, Bruno Federico, was detained by the SIJIN (Colombian Police Intelligence Agency) for over six hours for filming the attacks from the ESMAD.
At the time of the removal Minister of the Interior, Germán Vargas Lleras, told the leaders of ASOQUIMBO that he was powerless to stop the removals of the affected peoples. Vice President of the Senate, Alexander Lopez, has initiated an investigation of the capability of Vargas Lleras to exercise his political position objectively being that Vargas Lleras´s brother, José Antonio Vargas Lleras, is the President of CODENSA, the Colombian entity that owns and administers Bogota Energy Company-EEB and Emgesa. Emgesa is the company that expropriated the Magdalena River for the Quimbo Dam.
February 18th and 19th Asoquimbo held meetings in Hobo, Gigante and Rio Loro to notify its members of the new investigations and suits against the government for the forced removal and to prepare for the upcoming battles. As a result of the 15-day strike held by the Regional Movement for the Defense of the Territory in January, Emgesa´s Director, Lucio Rubio, told local media the date for diverting the river had to be pushed back to March 3rd-6th due to the strike.
Starting this week the Comptroller General´s Office, as part of their investigation against the Ministry of Environment, INVIAS (Highway Transportation Authority) and the CAM (Regional Autonomous Environmental Corporation), have returned to the affected region to see how accurate Emgesa´s census of affected people has been. Numerous inhabitants from different communities and sectors complain that they have not been included in the company census and are pressuring to be included even though the company is not accepting more people.
As a result of the forced removal, international solidarity protests have been held in Rome, London and more are planned for the upcoming weeks. For the next two weeks, ASOQUIMBO is calling for international solidarity with the affected communities resisting the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project in the form of direct actions and delivering of letters at Colombian Embassies and Consulates. On Friday, Feb. 24th and Wed. the 29th, there are urban mobilizations planned in all the large cities of Huila and the rest of Colombia. Any acts of solidarity during the next two weeks will help have an impact.
Currently, the people affected by and in continued resistance to the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project continue to peacefully occupy the banks of the river in the face of almost daily attempts of the ESMAD to remove them by force. While brutalized and removed a week ago, everyday more people return to the banks of the river, the children of la Gaitana continue to resist and fight for defense of the River and their lives.
All solidarity actions that can be documented please send to polinizaciones(at)gmail.com