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The Cost of Power: Coal Mining and Human Rights in Colombia

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subsuelo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:31 PM
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The Cost of Power: Coal Mining and Human Rights in Colombia
By Aviva Chomsky
and Orlando Acosta

Orlando and Professor Chomsky spoke at Brown University in January 2008. This is the transcript of their presentation and the question and answer session which followed.

Im going to talk about Drummond, because it is a North American company. It arrived in Colombia in 1987. It obtained a claim to exploit coal in a region of ten thousand hectares in the Caribbean region of Colombia. This mine is in Cesar province. In 1995, when the shaft was opened, the workers, because of the companys pressures and violations of their rights, became unionized in order to resist. This is open-pit mine. When they took away the top layer of land to get down to where the coal is, the communities living in the areas surrounding the mine were displaced. Moreover, the water sources in those areas were removed, obstructed, so the ecosystem changed as well.

The struggle of workers against these multinationals resulted in the murder of four trade unionists in 2001. As soon as the multinationals arrived, they became acquainted with politicians and the powerful families of the area. These families were also related to the paramilitary groups. The killings took place during our struggle to improve working conditions.

The structure of the Colombian nation did not enable us to make an efficient complaint in order to find out who ordered these killings. Thus, we had to resort to the international community, and to speak directly to the coal miners Drummond has employed here in the United States, in Alabama. A steel union here in the US made it possible for us to denounce the head of the company, Augusto Jimenez, as the intellectual author of these killings.

International lawyers found out through their investigations that there was a direct link between president Augusto Jimenez of Drummond in Colombia and paramilitary groups, and that money passed hands, so these four union leaders would be killed. During the trial, obstacles were placed in the way of key witnesses integrated into the paramilitaries, who were imprisoned and therefore not able to testify. The lawyers specially requested that President Alvaro Uribe allow these key witnesses to testify, but he refused permission. The Colombian governments obstruction contributed to the courts favorable ruling in favor of the multinational. This ruling, of course, further worsened conditions for the workers and exacerbated the conflict between the union and the company. This is just one example of how the human rights situation in Colombia worsens day by day.

And the Colombian government, pursuing approval of the free trade agreement with the United States, has claimed that the number of union leaders murdered in Colombia has diminished, when in fact, that is not true. Official investigations tend to point out that union leaders die as a consequence of robberies, and not from political murder. Their other policy is to threaten the lives of family members of union leaders. A message is regularly sent to the families of leaders telling them that if they do not stop their denunciation of the policies of the mining companies, theyre going to lose what they cherish most. Last year, I myself received a leaflet at my house, which had a skull on it -- a clear message -- claiming that I was a drug dealer.

You students the future of the world must bear in mind that the so-called third world countries, in their pursuit of development, surrender their natural resources, thinking that thats the only way to effectively derive wealth from them. It is important that you understand that that is a mistake. What is left behind in these countries is just the displacement of large segments of populations and murders that remain in impunity; that is no way to develop a country. That is why weve told the Colombian government that the free trade agreement as it stands right now is not beneficial to the Colombian people.

This must be of interest to North Americans and the international community, because wealth rests in the hands of a few, and redistribution of it is not going to take place. We must all contribute to the denunciation of these violations so we can contribute to make the world of a better place. This is what I want to share with you. Thank you.

more here
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:51 PM
Response to Original message
1. Just scanned your article: it's excellent. Will be back to read it thoroughly.
It's important to keep info. on Drummond available. They've had complete protection so far for their primitive, brutal exploitation.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 01:42 PM
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2. Returned to read the linked info. Really great! Confirmed so many suspicions, too.
Very, VERY sad situation for the workers in Colombia. They are acquiring some powerful friends, however, over time.

One day, they will win. It's bound to happen. Good eventually is supposed to win over evil, and the case here is clear.
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