Some 25 thousand farmers in southern Colombia have been involved in weeks-long protests demanding the national government end controversial aerial fumigation of coca crops and carry out due diligence in the awarding of oil contracts.
The protesters have been blocking the main oil transport corridor in the state of Putumayo, making sure no machinery or oil workers pass through, reported local media.
The blockades led to heavy clashes between protesters and riot police on July 14 and 19, said rural press agency Agencia Prensa Rural.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon visited the area last week and announced the upcoming arrival of more security personnel to ensure free movement of the oil companies’ employees.
However, according to news agency Colprensa, the locals have said they do not want more troops, but social investment.
“We demand a real social investment to ensure compliance with the requirements of Putumayo, avoiding both protocol and leaving aside the practice of handing responsibility to the oil company that threatens the integrity of the people,” local leader Jaime Cardona from the town of Orito was quoted as saying by Colprensa.
President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the presidential election in Putumayo, promised during his campaign ahead of the first election round in May that he would stop aerial fumigation with glyphosate in the region and focus on social investments, reported the news agency.
Despite this, planes continue to spray glyphosate, a chemical used to eradicate coca fields. But the massive use has caused pesticide contamination of land and water, and health complaints from local residents.
- En el Putumayo exigen parar la explotación petrolera (Agencia Prensa Rural)
- Protestan en Putumayo contra la explotación petrolera y el glifosato (Colprensa)