Colombia's Constitutional Court announced a decision Feb. 16 upholding the power of municipalities and "territorial entities" to block mining on their lands. The decision cited Law 685, which modified the Mining Code in 2001, bringing it into conformity with constitutional provisions on regional autonomy. (Contagio Radio, Feb. 16) The ruling clears the way for Ibagué, capital of Tolima department, to hold its planned consulta or popular vote on mining operations within the municipality, seen as model for similar votes around the country.
President Trump on Jan. 24 signed orders giving the go-ahead for construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, which had been halted by the Obama administration. Obama's State Department rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Army Corps of Engineers had ordered work halted on the Dakota pipeline after weeks of protests by Native American groups and their activist allies. In a signing statement, Trump said the Keystone XL project will mean "a lot of jobs, 28,000 construction jobs, great construction jobs." In its own statement, TransCanada, the company seeking to build Keystone XL, said it "appreciate[s] the President of the United States inviting us to re-apply for KXL. We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so."
A federal judge in Florida ruled Nov. 29 that victims of right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia may sue banana giant Chiquita Brands under US jurisdiction. Judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita's argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States, clearing the way for the ground-breaking suit to advance toward trial. The company no longer has assets in Colombia, so any damages awarded by that country's courts would be unenforceable. "Our clients chose to litigate in the United States because it is the only forum where they can litigate safely and where they can be sure that Chiquita will pay," said attorney Marco Simons of Earth Rights International (ERI).
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners—the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline—says he is "100%" confident that Donald Trump will help the project get finished. The pipeline, connecting North Dakota's Bakken fields to a hub in Illinois, is 84% complete. But some 1,000 feet are being held up by the Obama administration in the face of unprecedented Native American protests. CBS reported the following exchange with Warren:
Leaders of a peasant community in San Martín municipality of Colombia's Cesar department say they have been threatened with legal action by oil giant ConocoPhillips for blocking roads to prevent development of a fracking site. Carlos Andrés Santiago of activist group Corporation in Defense of Water, Territory and Ecosystems (CORDATEC) said Sept. 14 that he had received threats of legal action and also of violence against his person by anonymous parties claiming to speak on behalf of ConocoPhillips. CORDATEC activists and members of Cuatro Bocas corregimiento (rural district) have been maintaining their road blockade since Sept. 7 to bar work crews from reaching the PicoPlata1 oil well. Cuatro Bocas resident say the well was permitted on their lands by the National Hydrocarbon Agency (ANH) without their consultation. Several such blockades of fracking sites are also underway in Caquetá department, despite repeated attacks by the ESMAD elite anti-riot force. (Semana, Contagio Radio, Sept. 14; Prensa Rural, Sept. 11; Contagio Radio, Sept. 5)
A hacienda owner in Colombia's Cauca region is demanding payment for damages to his property after indigenous protesters clashed there with security forces Aug. 29. Álvaro Saa, owner of Hacienda García Arriba in Corinto municipality, says 25 million pesos (approx. $8,500) in damages to his sugar cane crop and farm equipment were sustained in the invasion of his property. Leaders of the "Liberate Mother Earth" campaign, who seek to recover traditional indigenous lands in Cauca, say the occupation of the hacienda began peaecfully and only turned violent when protesters were attacked by the ESMAD elite National Police anti-riot force. They pledged to maintain the land recovery campaign, and charged that Colombia's National Police are serving as "a private force in favor of the multinationals." (El Tiempo, Bogotá, El País, Cali, Aug. 31; ACIN, Aug. 29 )
Multinational beverage producer Coca-Cola is one of more than 50 companies that will be charged with financing the now-disbanded Colombian paramilitary network AUC, a designated terrorist organization. Several of the country's courts are to contribute evidence of the involvement of these companies in financing the AUC to a transitional justice tribunal. The AUC, or Colombia Sefl-Defense Froces, killed many dozens of labor rights defenders during its existence between 1997 and 2006. Among the 57 companies are other major multinationals like Chiquita and Drummond. Colombia's state-run oil company Ecopetrol, the country’s largest soft-drink producer Postobón and the country's largest cement company, Cementos Argos are also among the suspected terrorism supporters.
An unprecedented ruling of Colombia's Constitutional Court last year protecting alpine wetlands or páramos from mining operations is apparently going unenforced. Coal-mining continues in the Páramo de Pisba, a supposed protected area in Boyacá department, according to Anastasio Cruz of the Network of Rural Waterworks (Red de Acueductos Rurales), who said that the mining operations over the past 12 years have left over 20 local sources dry. The operations are carried out by companies operating on the margins of the law, which he said are also seeking to re-activate an old iron mine in the area. Cruz made his statement to the press ahead of a National Meeting of Páramo Defenders held in Tasco, Boyacá, last moth. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 5)