Afro-Colombian anti-mining protests repressed

Afro-Colombian protesters who were demonstrating on the Pan-American Highway in southern Cauca department to oppose illegal mining on their lands were violently dispersed by riot police April 27. The feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD, used tear-gas and rubber bullets to clear the roadway, leaving several injured, including women, children and elders. Some 2,000 people from over 40 communities in north Cauca took part in the action to protest that "Afro-descendant territories continue to be under threat from multinational mineral companies and illegal mining." (Las 2 Orillas, ¡Pacifista!, April 27)

The People's Defender for the Cauca region, José Luis Sanjuán, spoke out against the police violence, asserting that the protesters had not been impeding traffic on the highway. He said he is trying to re-convene dialogue between the communities and a government delegation over the minig issue. Talks had been underway in the town of Santander de Quilichao, but may be suspended after the violence. (RCN, April 27)

Mining in the valley of Cauca's Río Sambingo is having a grave effect, with the river now entirely dry for much its course due to erosion and deforestation. Colombia's army has made note of the situation, and says it will take at least 100 years to restore the watershed, at a cost of millions of dollars. (El Tiempo, April 28)

The wave of assassinations of social leaders in Cauca continues amid ongoing conflicts in the department. On May 5, assassins on a motorbike gunned down a community leader of El Tambo village in a road ambush. Manuel Dolores Pino Perafán was secretary of the Communal Action Junta in the vereda (hamlet) of Brisas, and former president of the Campesino Environmental Association of Playa Rica (ASCAP). (El Tiempo, May 5)