Colombia: campesino strike in oil zone

Campesino communities in Colombia’s oil-rich department of Arauca, on the eastern plains, on Feb. 12 launched a paro, or civil strike, to protest broken promises by the national government and transnational companies operating in the region. A dialogue brokered by the Interior Ministry broke down the day before, and community leaders announced the campaign of civil resistance. Hundreds of campesinos began blocking roads leading to the Caño Limón and Caricare oilfields, both run by a consortium led by Occidental Petroleum of California. The first day of the campaign saw violence as over 1,000 troops of the National Police force’s Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) attacked the blockade at San Isidro, on the road to Caricare. Several protesters were beaten, four detained, and food supplies for the bloackde confiscated. The local Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation has issued an urgent alert calling for the release of those detained, and for demilitarization of the region. Army troops have set up checkpoints on roads leading to zone, and are barring journalists and rights observers. (Colombia Informa, Feb. 13 via UDW)