Colombia: government seeks to restrict ‘consultas’

Community leaders throughout Colombia have spoken out against a proposal by the central government to limit the power of consultas populares, or popular referenda, to bar oil and mineral projects at the municipal level. Some are questioning the constitutionality of the government's plan to "fast track" a sweeping reform of the Organic Law of Territorial Ordering (LOOT) that would strip municipalities of the ability to restrict subsoil exploitation. Jaime Tocora of Comité por la Defensa de la Vida accused the government of "going over the heads of the communities and territories," and added: "The public good is with a clean environment, not the multinationals." (Contagio Radio, July 25)

Urrao, in Antioquia department, on Aug. 30 became the latest muncipality to reject oil and mineral exploitation in a consulta. The municipality overlaps with Las Orquídeas National Park and protects critical alpine wetlands or páramos, including the Páramo del Sol. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 30)

Protests and confrontations over extractive projects continue to be reported from across the country. On July 24, residents of Pío XII vereda (hamlet) in Guamal municipality, Meta department, were attacked by National Police troops during a protest against oil exploration by state company Ecopetrol and Spanish firm Repsol. The pending oil development project would displace some 500 local families. (Colombia Infiorma, July 25)

The first national meeting of the Fracking-free Colombia Alliance was held in Barrancabermeja Aug. 24-5, which pledged to fight to reverse the recent decision of the Environment Ministry to permit the practice. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 25)

For much of July and August the Antioquia municipalities of Segovia and Remedios were paralyzed by a paro, or civl strike, by local informal miners demanding legalization of the claims. The feared anti-riot squad ESMAD was repeatedly unleashed on the miners, leaving several injured. The government is insisting that the miners' claims be worked under contract to the Canadian company Gran Colombia Gold. (Colombia Informa, Aug. 10)