An association of indigenous people in the southwest of Colombia has criticized President Juan Manuel Santos’ national mining strategy saying it will only bring more violence, reported El Espectador Wednesday.
Ricardo Alberto Rojas, of the Association of Indigenous Councils from Northern Cauca (ACIN), announced in Madrid that 60% of the southwestern department of Cauca “is already under concession for 50 years to a Canadian multinational company known around the world for repeated and systematic violations of human rights.”
“All this does is intensify the armed conflict. The mining offensive in the territory adds to the combat between the army and guerrillas, to the paramilitarism that remains in the region converted into criminal gangs, and the historical conflict of the landowners,” said Rojas.
The indigenous representative confessed that as opposed to his predecessor former President Alvaro Uribe, who “branded everyone that opposed as a terrorist,” current head of state Santos does propose dialogue with social sectors and the opposition. However, “this discourse has failed to transcend from the executive down,” and has not translated “into concrete measures to protect the leaders and defenders of human rights.”
Rojas claimed that Santos follows the same national consolidation plan as Uribe, in that the government resources are put forward to regain territorial control from the guerrilla but with “an additional element of an extractive mining model, basically of oil and gold, that supposedly will help resolve the fiscal crisis in the country.”
The head of ACIN, Jaime Yatacue, criticized Santos’ National Development Plan for not having consulted with the indigenous population.
The president has recently been vocal about his Royalties Bill, that will funnel royalties received from mining and oil exploration by Colombian localities into a general fund that will be distributed nationwide, in an effort to cut inefficiency and corruption. Opponents argue that this is just another method of financial control for the Bogota elite.
Colombia’s mining industry has also faced criticism for its lack of safety precautions. Fifty-five mines were closed by the Ministry of Mining and Energy, along with mining authorities Ingeominas and ARP Positiva, between February and May. Inspections of 524 mines in the departments of Cundinamarca, Boyaca and Norte de Santander, found 73% to be operating under inadequate conditions.