Violence and threats are an everyday occurrence in Cesar, the Colombian mining region where European energy companies purchase blood coal for our power supply. Our research shows that in Cesar at least 200 people have become victims of attempted killings and death threats in the past four years.
The urgency of this issue is acute. Néstor Iván Martínez, a leader of one of the communities protesting mine expansion, was murdered earlier this week. PAX therefore repeats its call to energy companies, to stop the purchase of coal from Cesar. PAX asks the general public to show solidarity with threatened community leaders in the region.
PAX program leader Joris van de Sandt: “PAX has constantly warned energy companies that buy blood coal from Cesar that people who campaign for justice and reparations are still being plagued by violence and death threats. Despite these warnings, the energy companies—with the exception of the Danish company DONG—continue to supply blood-coal power to millions of European homes. PAX believes that energy companies should immediately stop buying blood coal as a lever to ensure that the current violence will end and the victims of earlier paramilitary violence have received the reparations to which they are entitled.”
Murdered in front of his family
Research by PAX show that there is still a culture of violence and intimidation in the coalmining region. In four years from mid-2012 to now, at least 200 people have been attacked with automatic weapons and machetes or received text messages, phone calls and pamphlets with death threats. Néstor Iván Martínez, leader of an Afro-Colombian community resisting the expansion of the mines owned by the American mining company Drummond, was cold-bloodedly assassinated in front of his relatives. This assassination follows a death threat issued last August 25 and took place in Chiriguaná. This is the same village in which the father of Maira Mendez, who toured Europe last May, was also murdered in front of his family. Mendez shared her concerns about the ongoing violence and asked energy companies to stop buying blood coal.
Thousands of people affected
There are strong indications that groups with precursors in the paramilitary AUC, which murdered 3,100 people and drove 55,000 local inhabitants off their land from 1996 to 2006, are the source of the current terror. The more than 200 people that have been directly targeted are persons that advocate for the rights of victims of the previous wave of violence, as well as for better working conditions. Indirectly thousands of people are affected by the terror, which is deliberately intended to paralyze civil society and thus to preserve the status quo established by the paramilitary violence between 1996 and 2006.
New testimonies on role mining companies
PAX’ research findings come at the same time as the publication of a government report—'La Maldita Tierra’—about the rise in paramilitary violence in the mining region of Cesar and the economic drivers behind this. The report includes three new testimonies by ex-paramilitary leaders about the alleged collaboration between mining companies Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore and the paramilitary AUC. According to witnesses, this involved various secret meetings, the exchange of intelligence and systematic payments. PAX already investigated the grave human right violations in the mining area in its 2014 report 'The Dark Side of Coal’.
Report: Civil Society Under Threat
See also In Depth: Stop Blood CoalDealing with the Past, Natural Resources, Conflict & Human Rights, Colombia