Threats to environmental leaders against fracking in Colombia


A Planeta and other international organisations reject the threats and intimidation suffered by members of the Colombia Fracking Free Alliance, activists who defend their territories against attempts to develop fracking projects promoted by the Colombian Government, and the companies Ecopetrol and ExxoMobil, in the municipality of Puerto Wilches (Santander) and the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia. From the basque Country we send them our solidarity.

The opposition to fracking in Colombia led by the Alliance, a broad and plural platform of more than 100 social, popular and community organisations and processes throughout the country, has managed to stop for several years the start of this type of extractive projects for the good of local and global communities in the context of the climate crisis, but at an enormous cost for social leaders who suffer continuous threats from armed organisations that operate in the territories where this dangerous activity is to be carried out.

The Colombian Alliance Against Fracking denounces that the state company Ecopetrol, with the support of government entities, is seeking to obtain the environmental license for the first fracking «pilot project» called Kalé, located in the municipality of Puerto Wilches (Santander), with the objective of giving free rein to this type of exploitation in the country before the end of the period of the present government. In the aforementioned licensing, there have been multiple violations of «due process» and the right to citizen participation (atypical hearings, abnormal reduction of process times, among other anomalies), which have further increased opposition to the Kalé project, and in general to fracking in the region and the country.

In this context, peaceful protests were held first on February 6 in front of the Ecopetrol facilities in Barrancabermeja, and the following day, at the «information meeting» prior to the public hearing on February 22, organized by the National Authority for Environmental Licenses (ANLA) and Ecopetrol, in the municipality of Puerto Wilches. Although the protests were carried out in peace, impregnated with the colours and music characteristic of the region, the Ecopetrol company issued a statement misrepresenting the action by stating that: «the protesters broke into the place and prevented the citizens from entering, and attacked with stones the logistics personnel, affected the transmission equipment and forced their way into the Ecopetrol master.” These false accusations, which stigmatize and criminalize the right to peaceful protest, triggered violent actions against members of the Puerto Wilches and the Alliance organisations.

On the same February 7, paramilitary groups calling themselves Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) and Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), intensified their threats against the leaders, opponents and people involved in the resistance to fracking in the region, distributing two pamphlets in social networks that threaten leaders with their own name, in addition to telephone calls and direct contact with death threats that involved the emergency displacement of two companions.

Given the seriousness of the situation, the signatory organizations demand:

1. To the National Government of Colombia and regional and municipal authorities, provide all the necessary guarantees so that the different organizations that make up the Puerto Wilches Environmental Roundtable and the Colombian Alliance Against Fracking can exercise their rights to life, personal integrity, free expression, the meeting and public and peaceful protest, in opposition to the fracking pilots, in the different legal actions, advocacy and mobilization that are considered necessary.

2. To the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, issue the necessary orders to move forward with the investigation of the events described and the identification and prosecution of those responsible for these threats, as well as the previous events that affect other members of the Alliance, and that are fully known to the research entity.

3. To the Ombudsman’s Office and the Personería Municipal of Puerto Wilches, activate the channels and institutional routes of accompaniment to the organisations of the Environmental Table of Puerto Wilches and the Colombian Alliance Against Fracking. Likewise, to the Ombudsman’s Office, issue an early warning considering the risk that environmental defenders run in Puerto Wilches and Magdalena Medio, in particular due to the implementation of fracking pilots.

4. To the Ministry of the Environment and the National Authority for Environmental Licenses – ANLA, to suspend the Public Hearing in the process of environmental licensing of the Kalé Project scheduled for February 22, due to the lack of security conditions to guarantee the adequate participation of the community, the right to access to information and to “due process” in decisions that are fundamental for the future of their territories.

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