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"We live in a wave of attacks since it was launched the ' locomotive minera´en Colombia"

Friday, 17 May 2019


Rosa M. Tristán

Clemencia Carabali, Afro-Colombian leader and survivor of an attack

"We were on a farm by holding a meeting to prepare for a meeting with the Government. We found 16 people, under an open kiosk, when we saw that something exploded five metres away. We threw to the ground. We had eight bodyguards in the estate, which reacted immediately. There was a gunfight between them and the three men who attacked us. We ran to the services. Another fell next to the kitchen. At the end, the attackers managed to escape and two of the bodyguards were wounded, one by shrapnel from granada and the other bullet. In the war have lived very strong events, but never an attack like this. Our lives, our territories and our rights are in danger here in Colombia. It is an attempt of massacre and we are very concerned."

Clemency Carabali Rodallega describes the attack on Saturday, may 4, in the North of Cauca. Leniency leads the Association of women Afro-Colombian from the Norte del Cauca - ASOM. Next to her was France Marquez, also leading in the Cauca and Goldman Prize in 2018, and other 14 representatives in a territory that one day if and another is also dyed in blood.

From Santander de Quilichao, Carabali, whose organization works the Spanish NGO Alliance for solidarity, calling on the rest of the world that pressure on the Government of Ivan Duque to put brake to artefact that is putting at risk their lives and their future.

Do you have proof that it is investigating this attack?

We denounce it and taken us statement, but at the moment, logically, there is no information about the authors. And we do not know who might be. What we see is that we live a wave of threats and violence since the Colombian Government launched the 'mining locomotive', which consists of giving mining concessions to multinational companies, other companies and investors, now coming to the territory to end with it. We denounce that mercury pollution levels are very high and this large mining joins mining illegal and unconstitutional, illegal crops, armed groups which we still have in the Cauca and they want to control the territory. It is the State who should investigate and see who tried to murder us.

These mining concessions are new or have been reactivated now?

Some are new and some not, almost all gold, but have been launched in several projects and mega-projects in our territories now, after the signing of the peace accords in 2017, when the companies been able to enter calmer in the territory. Some are of Colombian entrepreneurs associated with foreign. Before we were beset by conflict and now by the companies that want to exploit our resources. And we applaud the peace agreements, of course, but it cannot be that now reach megaprojects run out before making any prior consultation in ethnic communities, as it marks the national and international legislation. This is a threat to all.

Are grants for projects danto in occupied areas?

In Colombia all subsoil is the State, so they can adapt. When the land over to a person, you have more rights, but they are projects that affect all and therefore it is necessary to make consultation and environmental impact studies that are not doing. To do this, add the subject of illicit crops, in which is has not moved anything in two years in this region, so still having armed groups 'narcos' in the absence of implementation of the peace agreements. Saturday 4th precisely prepared a meeting we would have 8 may with government representatives to talk about it when we were attacked. The 8th we met with the delegates, but we could not reach agreements because they are not willing to take structural measures which guarantee the rights of black people, with concrete measures to advance in social inequality. Now they just adopted the fracking in the Development Plan of Colombia and we fear to put it into practice in Cauca.

Is there any research that reflects the impact that mining is having on the population?

We know that there are serious cases of blood contamination by mercury and cancer rates have risen, but there is no research in the Cauca because does not interest the authorities. Only the University of Valle has made a study of the municipality in Suarez, who detected much mercury in blood and the women in there, but they are expensive analyses which are not usually made.

In this context, the situation of women in the Cauca what today?

Very precarious. There are high levels of unemployment. Many have to leave their crops and do not have any income. Others live displaced to cities and have left their children alone with older relatives. And another must go to get gold to the rivers of traditional form, despite the pollution. The health system is very precarious, and there is lot of sexual violence. In general, the situation is complex because there are profound shortcomings in infrastructure, education, water, transport etc... Everything is done in complex conditions and they are the most affected because they are unpaid family care.

What can they do in view of this aggravated situation?

Too much pressure. And better international because here the Government not listening to us. Support for entrepreneurs, which is rich is it more, but violating our rights. Only remains to the international pressure, through bilateral agreements that have, this Government to honor and safeguard the rights of the people. We call so there is more solidarity with defenders of human and ethnic rights in this country.

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