COLOMBIA: Miners occupy government offices; Colombian government reschedules meeting

5 November 2008
COLOMBIA: Miners occupy government offices; Colombian government reschedules meeting

by Kim Lamberty

Miners in the Southern Bolivar region of Colombia are continuing their struggle for human rights and control over economic development in their territory.  Recently the Colombia team reported that on 15 October 2008, over 900 miners travelled to Santa Rosa for a meeting which government representatives, which was cancelled at the last minute.  Community and local organization leaders have called for negotiations with the government, because small miners and small landowners, denied titles to their mines and to the lands they have occupied for decades, are in danger of dispossession by encroaching agro-industry and multinational mining interests.  Their leaders have been threatened by paramilitaries, assassinated by government security forces, unjustly accused of treason, and arrested.

On 17 October, in response to the government's failure to appear, 150 miners from different villages and communities in Southern Bolivar marched to Cartagena and occupied the headquarters of the Secretariat of Mining.  They were prepared to stay there until the government rescheduled its meeting with them in Santa Rosa, and demanded that it do so by 20 October.  The miners promised that if the government did not respond, 10,000 people would march in Barrancabermeja.

Government representatives met with the miners on 18 October and signed an agreement to hold official negotiations on 6 November in Santa Rosa.  The Governor of Bolivar, the Secretary of Mining, and the Secretary of the Interior have all promised to attend.

On the same day, a known member of a paramilitary group entered the headquarters of the mining federation in Santa Rosa and asked to speak with a leader of the miners, Teofilo Acuña, who has received numerous death threats from paramilitary groups.  CPTers Stewart Vriesinga and Kim Lamberty travelled to Santa Rosa on 19 October to accompany Teofilo back to his current place of hiding.  CPT will continue to accompany the mining federation and will be present for the 6 November negotiations.