FROM SEPA MÁS 7 APRIL 2015
Indigenous populations of Colombia are dying in silence because their mother river has been privatized for the world’s largest open pit coal mine.
The Cerrejon Mine deprives the Wayuu people of the only water source they had, using 35,000 liters of water a day, and causing many deaths among the population. Wayuu spokesman Armando Valbuena reported to the Colombian newspaper Aporrea that around 14,000 children have died of starvation and that portal “mortality does not stop”.
Parracho moon / Reuters
“The measures that have been taken are insufficient and Cerrejón Mine, with the permission of the National Government seized the only source of water we had, leaving the community enduring thirst – and so many lives have been lost”
Javier Rojas Uriana, legal representative, Association of Traditional Authorities Indigenous Wayuu Wayuu Shipia
Uriana filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS for the violation of Wayuu fundamental vital rights, demanding that they regain sole possession of the Rancheria River.
Far from being an isolated case
The tragedy of the Wayuu, far from being the only case, represents a series of violation of the rights of indigenous peoples by large companies.
In February, several bands of Cauca, one of the major groups of
Aboriginal people in Colombia, organized a peaceful uprising to demand recognition of their land rights and to accuse the government of usurping their most productive territories.
Protesters denounced the government for assigning the most fertile land to the sugar industry . They also noted that corporate producers contaminated these ancient land areas with no respect for the environment. Finally, the Cauca charged some companies with misrepresenting their interests as large scale agriculture production, rather than mining.
“The multinationals actually intend seek to seek out and exploit deposits of various metals, including gold,” said Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca spokesman Antonio Palechor.
Sometimes the people prevail
Some struggles of indigenous peoples against transnational corporate interests do have happy endings. In October of last year, the Chilean Supreme Court reversed the judgment of a lower court, which had given the green light for gold and copper mines to Canadian company Goldcorp, thanks to an injunction brought by the Diaguita Indians.
The Court noted that Goldcorp had not consulted with the communities impacted, and in a split decision, reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals of Copiapó, about 800 kilometers north of Santiago, which had rejected the application for protection of the Diaguitas.
This ruling strengthend previous Diaguitas victories against Canadian company Barrick Gold proving that mining operations had polluted nearby glaciers. Following an order that the company submit to ongoing expert review, the Indians were able to paralyze the entire Pascua Lama gold project.