The mountain road that winds its way out of the Colombian city of Medellin and into the mountains, forests and scattered communities of Santa Elena is lined with battered signs urging readers to care for the rivers and streams that give life to the region.
Rodolfo Vecino is the president of Colombian oil workers union (USO), which was last year declared a “military target” by right-wing paramilitaries for its campaigns against what the union says are the abusive labor practices of Canadian oil giant Pacific Rubiales.
Police arrived at the Santa Isabel mine in Colón-Génova on February 21, 2012. The officers asked these local miners to attend a meeting to see if they could sort out their licensing request; However, when the roughly twenty-five miners arrived, they were read their rights and arrested. Miners and rural social movements allied with the miners, believe that this is part of a federal government strategy to phase out informal mining and pave the way for foreign multinationals. “We are seeing the criminalization of artisanal mining in this country,” says organizer Luz Mila Ruana.
Nearly 300 hundred campesinos, indigenous, students and youth faced off with riot police at the construction sites entrance near the damaged Paso del Colegio Bridge closing off traffic to the entrance of the site, eventually marching to the national highway. At the same time around 90 fisher-people up river of the dam site occupied the tunnel and surrounding beaches until they were apprehended and detained for some time before being released.
At first sight, the small town of La Playa in the department of Santander in Colombia seems gripped by a minor boom. Its population has rocketed while new residential buildings, shops and small bars blaring out loud music have sprung up all over town. Yet the growth does nothing to mask the pervading atmosphere of desperation and frustration among its long-term residents, brought on by living with the uncertainty of whether there will even be a town in the future.
The three main demands of the strike are that the environmental licenses for the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project and Emerald Energy be immediately suspended, public environmental hearings be held for the project in affected communities and for multinational corporation Emgesa to immediately repair the Paso del Colegio Bridge and other highways that have been damaged while working on the Quimbo project.
In 1994, Manuel Cepeda, a Senator of the Patriotic Union Party in Colombia, was executed by paramilitaries under the command of the state. Since then his son, Iván Cepeda, devotes himself to the fight against impunity by working with the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE).
On November 26, the administration of Juan Manuel Santos Calderón [2010-2014] sanctioned an armed ‘rescue’ of retained politico-military prisoners under FARC-EP confinement close to Curillo in the department of Caquetá.
A Colombian Army officer charged with multiple civilian killings, known as “false positives,” last month publicly charged the commander of the U.S.-assisted unit – General Javier Fernández Leal – with collaborating in the killings. Fernández Leal has been promoted to chief of joint intelligence for the Colombian military.
As public universities across the country go on strike, thousands of students are discussing the next step on how to make sure the reform isn’t passed. The main focus of criticism for the reform is Law 30, which would break from the past and allow for private businesses to run schools for profit.