From A Planeta, and from Euskal Herria (Basque Country) we stand in solidarity with the young anti-fracking activists threatened in Puerto Wilches, department of Santander, Colombia. These activists oppose the development of fracking pilot projects in this area through the Committee for the Defense of Water, Life and Territory (AguaWil) and the Colombia Fracking Free Alliance. AguaWil is a committee recently formed in that city to defend their territory against the possible implementation of fracking and is a member of the Alliance. Since December it has led peaceful educational and cultural mobilizations to express its opposition. Members of the Alliance in Barrancabermeja (Santander) and San Martín (Cesar) have also suffered threats.
Threats against these people, in the Colombian situation, are to be taken very seriously, and in order not to create more panic, we prefer not to reproduce the numbers of people killed for the simple fact of opposing this or other developmentalist, destructive, polluting and unwanted projects in that country.
For this reason, environmentalists, academics and local and national political representatives demanded the President of the Republic to act to protect them and stop these projects. Among them, activists and academics belonging to the National Environmental Forum (FNA) and members of the Independent Interdisciplinary Commission (CII) that prepared the “Report on environmental (social, physical and biotic) and economic effects of hydrocarbon exploration in areas with possible deployment of hydraulic fracturing techniques of source rock through horizontal drilling“, denounced the recent threats.
They consider these threats to be contrary to the spirit of the IIC’s proposal, which called for transparency, dialogue, and active citizen participation in the process prior to the implementation of the pilot project of fracking, during their implementation, and in the subsequent comprehensive evaluation to determine whether or not this hydrocarbon exploration technique is appropriate in the country.
They express in the communiqué that “we join the petitions to the State bodies so that they investigate, clarify and act in accordance with the law to prevent these threats from prospering or repeating themselves”. Due to the violence implied by the threats, the academics state that the conditions will not be adequate for the fracking pilot projects, so they propose to suspend them. This same group of academics and experts already volunteered in December to participate in the pilot projects to monitor and evaluate their social, economic and environmental aspects.
The Fracking Free Colombia Alliance also rejects the threats. The Alliance has denounced what they misnamed “Pilot Projects of Integral Investigation -PPII” that the National Government is imposing on the Magdalena Medio region: “For several years we have warned about the risks that the development of fracking pilot projects in territories affected by the armed conflict represents for environmental defenders, which would cause new socio-environmental conflicts as has already happened. Likewise, we have questioned that the so-called social license, a concept devoid of the constitutional content of the fundamental right to real and effective participation, is processed, promoted or supported in the midst of threats, pressures and exclusion of the inhabitants of the areas that could be impacted”.
Thus, they echo that “in 2020, Global Witness reported that Colombia is the country with the highest number of murders of environmental and territorial defenders”, so they demand the Colombian State to provide guarantees to activists “to exercise their rights to life, mobilization and social protest, assembly, free expression and peaceful movement, freedom of conscience, personal integrity, and opposition to these megaprojects”.
The Alliance also demands that the company responsible for these projects, the national company Ecopetrol, “guarantee respect for human rights at all stages of implementation of these projects, in consistent and effective application of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)”.
A group of 34 congressmen (senators and representatives to the House of Representatives) also denounced the threats against the young anti-fracking activists in a letter sent to President Duque.
On February 11, AGUAWIL and the Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance organized a “cacerolazo” against fracking in Puerto Wilches simultaneously with the beginning of the “Permanent Territorial Roundtable for Dialogue and Follow-up”. This mobilization occurred a few days after the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Environment asked Congress to ban fracking in Colombia.
During the protest, the organizers demanded that in the territories “the rights to a healthy environment and to a dignified life in harmony with nature are not violated” and denounced that the pilot projects “do not contemplate spaces for the effective participation of the communities, do not have a social license, and lack scientific rigor”.
An oil worker member of Aguawil, Hender Acuña expressed that “the government and Ecopetrol only seek to exploit and affect the communities of Magdalena Medio, the Kalé project will be the beginning of the end of our water, life and territory as we know it. The Wilches community delivers a clear message to the government, the country and the world: We do not want fracking in Puerto Wilches or anywhere else”.
A day later, on February 12, a hearing took place in the Fifth Commission of the House of Representatives with the participation of academics, both supporters and opponents of this activity, in the framework of the discussion of the bills that seek to ban fracking in Colombia.
More info at Alianza Colombia Libre de Fracking: