Colombia: multinationals on 'trial' for rights abuses

An activist tribunal dubbed the Ethical Trial against Plunder (Juicio Ético contra el Despojo) was held in Bogotá over the weekend to air testimony against the practices of multinational gold firm Anglo Ahshanti (AGA) and oil giant Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE). More than 500 representatives from across Colombia convened in the capital's central folk-crafts market, the Plaza de los Artesanos, to present evidence that the multinational corporations were involved in the murder of union leaders, displacement of indigenous communities, and grave environmental damage. The objective was to gather enough evidence to be able to put forward an real legal case.

Blasts shut Colombia's second largest oil pipeline

Two explosions shut down Colombia's 80,000 barrel-per-day Caño Limon-Covenas oil pipeline, state-controlled oil company Ecopetrol said July 5, with a military source describing them as attacks carried out by leftist rebels. The explosions on Colombia’s second largest pipeline, used by US oil producer Occidental and owned by Ecopetrol, had no immediate impact on production or exports in Latin America's fourth largest oil producer, according to an Ecopetrol official. No details on how much crude was spilt by the explosions or the environmental damage was immediately available, the Ecopetrol official said.

Colombia: rebels attack coal mine amid strike

Colombia's largest coal miner, Cerrejon, said Feb. 24 that rebels broke into its facility at Mina Sur, La Guajira department, and burned four of the company's trucks in what it called a "terrorist attack." The attack came four days after the company declared force majeure in the face of work stoppage that began on Feb. 7. Cerrejon, a joint venture between Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, operates Colombia's largest open-pit mine, and has frequently been the target of guerilla attacks. Both the FARC and ELN guerilla groups operate in the zone. In 2012, Cerrejon produced around 34.6 million tons of coal, half of which was exported to Europe. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 24; Energy Global, Feb. 20)

Colombia: guerillas free captives

After tense negotiations, the Red Cross transported to safety Feb. 15 two Colombian National Police agents being held by the FARC guerillas since Jan. 25. The release had been delayed due to large groups of journalists in the vicinity of the drop-off point according to leader of Colombians for Peace (CCP), Piedad Cordoba, who helped broker the negotiations. The armed forces had ceased military activity around Miranda in the southwest Cauca department to provide safe passage for the Red Cross. The humanitarian mission will next fly to Pasto to secure the release of a soldier captured by the FARC on Jan. 31 during clashes in southern Nariño department. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 14)

Colombia: ELN to join peace talks?

Norma Enríquez, a leader of the Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace, an umbrella of Colombian NGOs and popular organizations, on Feb. 10 called on the government to include the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the talks now underway in Havana with the FARC guerillas. Enríquez told the Mexican news agency Notimex that failure to include the ELN "would be to risk marginalizing one of the expressions of the conflict from the peace dialogue." Initial contacts between the government and the ELN, brokered by the Catholic Church, apparently broke down in November, when the guerilla group took hostage two German nationals in Santander department. (Notimex, Feb. 11; Sexenio, Mexico, Feb. 10)

Colombia: ELN abducts gold prospectors

Guerillas of Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) abducted five gold prospectors working for a Canadian company on an exploratory mission in Norosi municipality, Bolívar department, Jan. 19. One of the seized men was from Canada, two from Peru and two from Colombia. Toronto-based Braeval Mining said the three company employees and two consultants were working at its Snow Mine project, where the company is seeking gold, silver and copper. The area, in the San Lucas mountains, is a traditional ELN stronghold. President Juan Manuel Santos announced the following day that three suspected guerillas believed to have taken part in the abduction had been captured. Unlike the larger FARC guerilla organization, now in talks with the government, the ELN has not disavowed ransom kidnappings. (AP, Jan. 21; Fox News Latino, Jan. 19)

Colombia: FARC ends unilateral ceasefire

Colombia's FARC rebels on Jan. 20 announced the immediate end of a two-month unilateral ceasefire and renewed their call for a bilateral truce to hold peace talks with the government "in a tranquil environment." The FARC had offered to extend the truce if the Colombian government signed a bilateral ceasefire, but President Juan Manuel Santos rejected that idea from the start. Speaking to press in Havana, the leader of the FARC's negotiating team, "Ivan Márquez," said that "with pain in our hearts we must admit that we return to the time of military warfare that nobody wants." Santos responded at a public event in Padilla, a village in southwestern Cauca department hard hit by fighting: "The armed forces, like our army, air force, navy and police, know exactly what to do come tomorrow."

Colombia: ICC 'false positive' probe advances

On Nov. 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave Colombia a clear warning that the Court expects accountability at the senior level for serious crimes that fall under its jurisdiction, or else it may pursue a formal investigation. The warning came in the first interim examination report ever issued by the Court's Prosecutor Office. Colombia joined the ICC in November 2002 and is one of only eight countries formally under ICC examination. The others are Honduras, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, North Korea and Mali.

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