Colombia: government blinks in regional strike against hydro project

After a regional strike had shut down Colombia’s central Andean department of Huila for 15 days, the protest campaign was suspended Jan. 17 when the central government agreed to public hearings on the controversial Quimbo hydro-electric project. The pact signed by protest leaders, the Huila regional government and national Environment Ministry calls for hearings to convene the first week of February in Garzón municipality, one of those affected by the project. The paro (civil strike) was called by the Association of the Affected by El Quimbo Dam (ASOQUIMBO), the Regional Indigenous Council of Huila (CRIHU) and other popular organizations. Protesters blocked equipment at the construction site, bringing work to a halt, as well as blocking the central highway through the region.

The Quimbo project is being built by Emgesa, Colombian subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant Endesa—which has received “carbon credits” for the project through the Clean Development Mechanism established by the Kyoto Protocol. Environmentalists protest that the 400-megawatt project will alter the course of the Magdalena River, flood farmland, and displace campesino communities. The protest movement in Huila is also demanding a halt to oil exploitation in the Páramo de Miraflores—a high alpine plain officially protected as a nature reserve to preserve watersheds—by the UK-based Emerald Energy. (Upside Down World, El Espectador, Bogotá, La Nación, Neiva, Diario de Huila, Neiva, Jan. 19; Radio Caracol, Bogotá, Jan. 17; International Rivers, Nov. 28, 2010; CorpWatch, July 21, 2009)

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