Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -


CSC Delegation 2011 Print
News - News
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:49

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign Delegation is now in full swing.

Read their reports here


Delegation blog

CSC Delegation 2011
Colombia Solidarity Campaign Delegaton - September 2011



    Protest about lack of hospital resources, dispersed by gas in front of the hospital.


    56 year old hospital being run down – ready for privatisation?

    Hospital administration accused of corruption and bleeding hospital funds dry, December 2010

    El Hospital Universitario del Valle is in financial difficulties, cannot supply medicines and other equipment, is not paying staff on time or at all, and may be heading for closure. It is said that Lina Morena, the wife of ex-president Uribe, is interested in buying it. This is very shocking news, as the HUV is a huge, public and well-respected teaching hospital, with links to the public university, the Universidad del Valle, close by.

    There will be no alternatives in the whole region for patients or students, in medicine and related professions like physiotherapy. Staff at the hospital, the majority of whom are women, are likely to lose their jobs.

    On 16 February 2011, HUV workers held another demonstration to protest the lack of money to run the hospital.

    Regarding the confrontation that developed in the street in front of the hospital, Dr Laureano Quintero questioned the use of the police, given that two of those affected were patients, and six belonged to the hospital staff. A list of wounded is given below.

  • Jazmín Gamboa, secretaria de consulta externa: en evaluación de cirugía por trauma facial.
  • Paola Villarreal, auxiliar de oficina: trauma en pierna derecha.
  • Katerine Muñoz, auxiliar de oficina: herida en tórax.
  • Jersaín Labrado, vigilante: herida en tórax.
  • José Luis Rodríguez, transeúnte: trauma en abdomen.
  • Gustavo de la Cruz, transeúnte: trauma en pierna izquierda.
  • Carmen Albán, auxiliar de enfermería: trauma en pierna izquierda.
  • Deyanira Chagüendo, auxiliar de servicios generales: contusión en el hueso sacro.
  • Aceneth Escobar, auxiliar de esterilización: trauma en seno derecho.
  • Luis Eduardo Ibarra, mensajero y dirigente sindical: trauma en tórax.

  • Women's organisations, through the Red Mucem network, are closely involved in resisting the closure, alongside two unions, SINSPUBLIC and SINTRAHOSPICLINICAS. However, maybe as a warning, two 13 to 14 year-old girls, one the daughter of a woman activist, 'disappeared', and were found after a search by activists on the outskirts of the town. They had been raped.

    Poor people will be disproportionately affected by the running down, closure or privatisation of their public hospital, as will black people and also women, all the majority users of the public hospital facilities.

    Police snatch hospital worker, July 2011

    According to the medical director of the hospital, Laureano Quintero, tear gas was used, scaring patients and visitors in the early hours of the morning. Children and adults had to be evacuated from the emergency ward. The protest left five people wounded.

    The Mayor of Cali, Jorge Iván Ospina, in the face of continuous demonstrations by the hospital workers, has requested the setting up of a truth commission in order to clarify what was going on within the hospital.

    More news to follow later.....
  • How to make bio-ehtanol at home

    HOW TO MAKE BIO-ETHANOL AT HOME – watch this video!

    Why make fuel at home?

    60% of people's earnings round the world go to pay for food, petrol and electricity. This is the pattern in Villa Rica too. We believe that making our own fuel, and growing our own food, and generating our own electricity from sun and wind, will mean that 60% of our outgoings will be covered, using the least resources possible. This is an important part of building our community.

    How did we make it?

    For how we made the bio-ethanol, watch the video – which we hope will shortly be subtitled in English. The most important point about this process is that it involves generation of fuel from vegetable and fruit waste, with a little sweet content from cane juice, plus maize and yeast. No chemicals are added at all, before, during or after the 7-day fermentation process, which takes place before cooking.

    How will we use the fuel?

    In 2009, some of us decided that the community had had enough of the dirty, unreliable and expensive water provided by Central Acueducto del Cauca. We started digging wells, and now nearly every house in Villa Rica has their own well, powered by motobomba, like an outboard motor and which runs on electricity or petrol, to suck up the water.

    Before going ahead with this project, we had consulted the elders, who had told us of holes that they used to dig to irrigate their farms. We went ahead, and dug the holes deep within our own houses, but narrow enough not to endanger little children. This was the first project inspired by Haga Que Pase – Make it Happen – and before Mi Fink.

    We think that the motobombas, as well as motor cars and bikes, can be adapted to run on ethanol, which can also be used for cooking. We are also investigating sun and wind power.

    Final note..........

    Visitors to Villa Rica may be surprised to see that the town is nearly totally surrounded by massive sugarcane plantations, which are attempting, by all means possible, to replace the people's traditional farms. The sugar is mainly used for supplying the biofuel industry.


  • Responsible Mining?
    Cerrejon claim to be the largest open cast coal mine in the world. It also claims to be a pioneer in exceeding social, environmental and labour standards. At our meeting today with Cerrejon executives, which included a tour of the central zone, a Cerrejon official confided with us: “We mine responsibly not only because we want to, but also because it is makes business sense. We believe that customers from Europe and North America will opt for our responsibly mined coal, compared to our competitors with less stringent standards.”

    Cerrejon's owners, mining giants BHP Billiton, XStrata and AngloAmerican recently announced an expansion of the mining operations from 30 million tonnes last year to 40 million tonnes by the end of 2015. This would involve redirecting the Rancheria river, the main river that flows from the Santa Marta mountains and provides La Guajira department with water, over a 26Km stretch. Despite this, Cerrejon claims that by means of a process of relocating the flora and fauna in the riverbed, the environmental impact can be mitigated. 115 communities comprising 7000 people live downstream, and will likely suffer from a decrease in water supply and contamination of their drinking water. Being Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, they are legally entitled to a consultation process, and Cerrejon have repeatedly stated that the project will only go ahead with the consent of the communities. How Cerrejon will ascertain that it has obtained consent is less clear though.

    Despite last year paying 493.7 million USD in royalties, and 882 million USD in taxes, the poverty in the region (outside the luxury Cerrejon compound) suggests that these do not benefit locals much. Cerrejon considers that this is due to corruption at the local level, and its response has been to create a CSR programme to strengthen local government institutions. La Guajira has become economically dependent on the Cerrejon, which alone contributed to 41% of its GDP. Not expanding the mining operation would cause serious crisis for the local economy, which has become dependent on it, Cerrejon argues. To decrease this dependency, its reponse has been to create a CSR programme to promote entrepreneurship and diversification of economic activity in the region. However, they seem to overlook that fact that the scale of the proposed expansion is likely to only further increase La Guajira's dependence on coal mining.

    Responsible mining? It is unlikely that the former residents of Tabaco, an Afro-descendant farming village, would agree. Brutally evicted to make way for the mining operations in late 2001 and early 2002, residents who refused to leave had their homes bulldozed before their eyes, and were then forcefully removed by police and riot police. But that was before, a Cerrejon executive tells us. Since Leon Teicher became president of Cerrejon, they have changed and become truly responsible, he assures us.

    CSC is grateful for the invitation from PAS, ASK and FIAN for its members to participate in their delegation in Cesar and La Guajira.
  • Images of Coal Mines in Cesar

    Loading Coal onto Orihueca train

    Piles of Waste rock

    Piles of Waste rock

  • Visiting Coal Mining Communities in Cesar
    Today we visited the communities of El Hatillo, Plan Bonito and Boqueron in Cesar, located in the vicinity of La Francia, El Descanso and Calenturitas mines. On our journey from Valledupar we passed kilometres of African Palm. Slowly, these gave way to a more arid, dusty landscape, with piles of rock waste from the mines in the area, which have completely encroached these communities, literally suffocating them with coal dust.

    We witnessed poverty and a lack of social investment in basic services: The dilapidated school has a few old desks, there are no health services, the water is not potable, and there is no municipal rubbish collection. Instead, we were welcomed by piles of rubbish at the entrance of the village, which has become a makeshift tip. This is in stark contrast to the mineral riches being extracted less than a mile away, and loaded onto the trains that run through Orihueca. One cannot help wondering where the royalties went that should, first and foremost, be benefiting these communities.

    The mining operation has taken a toll on people's health, who reported respiratory illnesses, itchy and swollen eyes, and an high incidence of miscarriages. Formerly a fertile, agricultural community, where lemons and mangoes grew in abundance, the contamination means nothing grows on this land anymore. People also lost access to land which they used for farming and hunting due to the expansion of the mines; fishing is also no longer possible.

    The mines plan to expand further. People are currently living in fear, desperation and uncertainly, since they will have to leave their village soon. The deadline is theoretically in 10 day's time, and they have no idea where they will end up living, or what kind of compensation they will receive. These people have been totally neglected by the state, and nobody has been adequately informed of their legal rights. They will most likely receive payouts based on the current value of the land, which has become completely contaminated as a result of the mining operations, and will struggle to find a suitable alternative to live. In past evictions in La Guajira, people have ended up living in shanty towns outside larger settlements like Riohacha or Barrancas, losing their livelihood and right to live in a dignified manner.

    Arriving in El Hatillo

    House in El Hatillo

    School playground with piles of wasterock in background
  • The Coal Train in Orihueca, Magdalena
    Members of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign accompanied a delegation organized by FIAN, Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz Kolumbien (ASK) and Paz y Accion Social (PAS) to visit the village of Orihueca, in the department of Magdalena, in the Zona Bananera so famously depicted by Gabriel Garcia's Marquez's novels. Local residents, whose homes are along the same railway line that was used to transport bananas to the port of Santa Marta during the era of the United Fruit Company, now face a severe deterioration in their quality of life due to constant freight trains transporting coal from Glencore, Vale and Drummond mines in the neighbouring Cesar department.

    The coal trains run approximately every 20 minutes day and night right outside people's doorsteps. Each carriage of the train carries approximately 70 tonnes of coal, and a train has between 90 and 140 carriages. There are severe effects on the health of these residents due to coal dust and noise of the trains. Vibrations of these freight trains also caused structural damage to houses in the vicinty of the railway line. Accidents have happened: a child on a bicycle was killed when crossing the line, which does not have any type of warning system or barrier to warn that a train is coming. The fact that the line has been slightly elevated also means that homes next to the line are prone to flooding after strong rains. Given that the line is 270Km long, a similar story repeats itself along numerous other settlements that are bisected by the line.

    Complaints by residents have been met with deaf ears by Fenoco, the railway operator jointly-owned by the three mining companies concerned. Amid concern that expansion of the coal mines will lead to more trains, when communties threatened to block the railway line to raise awareness of the issues they are facing, a sinister leaflet was distributed to members of the community by Fenoco.

    Such a blatant disregard for health and safety and lack of respect for human life would be unthinkable in the United Kingdom or Germany (where much of the coal transported ends up being burned in power plants), and such a chaotic setup contrasts sharply with impeccably-organized Switzerland (where Glencore is from). Such a modus operandi would be unacceptable in any European or North American country, so why should this happen in Colombia? Why aren't the supposed royalties being spent to at least resolve some of even the most basic issues?
  • Valledupar Mining Forum
    Members of CSC attended a forum in Valledupar on 3-4 September about forced resettlement of communities affected by mining in the Cesar and La Guajira departments.


London Mining Network


The London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, development and environmental groups. We pledge to expose the role of companies, funders and government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects.