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29 February 2016 | | | |

Colombia: new violent eviction against Afro-descendant peasant family by El Cerrejón transnational mining company (La Guajira)

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The only "commitments" fulfilled by mining extractive industries that exploit coal in El Cerrejón, in La Guajira, Colombia, have been the use of public force to destroy houses, crops, plantations and harm communities through terror.

An example of this took place on February 24, when the family of Tomas Ustate and Idila Nira Fuentes, of Roche municipality, La Guajira department were violently displaced.

According to communities and human and environmental rights organizations working in the area, the eviction was scheduled for 10 am, when the Ustate Fuentes family was joined by approximately 50 members of Roche, Chancleta, Patilla communities and Human rights organizations, the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective and Indepaz.

However, police officers appeared much earlier, both from the Colombian Army and also from the Anti-Riot Police (ESMAD) who did not allow for the passing of members of the community who wanted to join the family.
The communities had also raised protection appeals to suspend the eviction, arguing that it violated their territorial and human rights.

Nevertheless, an hour later members of ESMAD arrived to the community insulting and throwing tear gases and rubber and steel bullets against the people present. After 20 minutes of attacks by the police, the eviction resulted in two injured people: Ronaldo Emilio Palmezano Carillo (a young man with a mental impairment) had his left arm fractured after being hit by a projectile thrown by ESMAD and Mr. Angel Pereira was wounded in his chest by the projectiles thrown by ESMAD; several people, among them women and people with disabilities were beaten and attacked with gases.

The excessive and disproportionate use of force was a feature of the expropriation, and the people affected denounce the indifference of judicial and human rights bodies that cleared the way for the police attacks.

Systematic non-compliance

A leader of the area and direct witness of the events, Samuel Arregocés, was interviewed by Real World Radio a few hours after the attacks and he made reference to the constant non-compliance by the company, the permissiveness by state bodies and the critical situation of the affected families who have lost their houses, crops, cattle and other livelihoods.

In addition, a photo record of what happened there, gathered by a Guatemalan press photographer was seized and destroyed at the request of the Cerrejón company itself, added Samuel.

Cerrejón is a company equally owned by BHP Billiton (Australia), Anglo American (South Africa) and Glencore of Switzerland. The coal extracted supplies the electricity generation sector, mainly in the Atlantic Ocean market, in North America and Europe.
In the interview with Real World Radio, Samuel said that the population responded to the force applied by ESMAD in an unjustified and excessive way.

"The company has signed over ten agreements with the communities and it still hasn´t even complied with the first", said Samuel during the interview.
Samuel also said that the land exploited by the displaced family had been in the hands of the community for over 300 years for cattle production and it was the source of work and self-sufficiency for over 50 people.

He also explained that the countries of origin of Cerrejón are exerting pressure on the communities and Colombian authorities to allow for the expansion of the mine.

The photos below show what happened on February 24.


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