Protesters blocking roads and oil infrastructure in eastern Colombia have said that they will continue until they get the President Juan Manuel Santos‘ signature on an agreement for better regulation of the oil industry.
The blockaders, who began their protest on January 21, claimed they are 1,500 strong. They demand that the government apply and enforce greater control over multinational mining companies who, in some reported cases, have undermined the legitimacy of local municipal governments.
They protestors have also demanded that the government do a more comprehensive job preventing environmental damage and that local communities receive more benefits from the oil industry.
“[There] remains a huge environmental, social and humanitarian debt owed by those who have exploited hydrocarbons in the department of Arauca,” read the press release of the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation, one of the organizations involved in the protest.
The blockaders, from many different civil society groups in the area, are blocking four roads that surround pipelines and other oil infrastructure in the eastern Colombian department of Arauca. They describe this blockade as a continuation of protests that began in April and May of 2012 after the government failed to live up to their promises.
The protesters on Monday met with government officials for “exploratory talks” and in a statement released on Wednesday, they claimed that the government “recognized [that] they have failed to live up to the commitments made on May 7, 2012.”
The blockaders said that they are “peaceful” and have denounced the attempts that have been made to link them with guerrilla insurgents. The protestors supposedly appealed to guerrillas to cease attacks in the area for fear it will endanger protesters and their cause. They also claimed that they have experienced government “aggression. Supposedly “military units blocked the passage of food to those mobilized at Caricare,” one of the blockade points.
The protesters say they will not go home until an accord is reached with the government and signed by Santos. Talks with authorities are ongoing and the initial meeting established a deadline of February 18 for an agreement to be reached.
According to reports the blockades may be affecting the Canadian-based mining company Pacific Rubiales, OXY and Colombia’s state-owned oil company Ecopetrol.