Some 2,000 locals from the northeastern department of Arauca clashed with police this week after protesters blocked the entrance to four oil fields to protest what they consider a neglect by the Colombian government and the multinational oil companies active in the region.
Journalist Emiro Goyeneche of the local Sarare Stereo radio station told Colombia Reports the protesters have clashed with riot police and the army in the Saravena municipality after blocking access to the Caño Limon, Coveñas and Cari Care oil fields, as well as the Bicentinario pipeline.
Videos published on YouTube show clashed between locals and riot police. According to Goyeneche, the Colombian army has also been involved the break up a blockade carried out by locals since February 12.
“The people don’t want to fight,” Goyeneche said, adding that violence that erupted was started by the authorities. “But the people had to defend themselves.”
According to the journalist, the violence that erupted days ago has a decades-long history.
“For 30 years multinationals have been mining in Arauca,” said Goyeneche, adding that the local population is fed up with the lack of prosperity and public services the extraction of fossil fuels in their region have brought despite promises by government and the oil companies active in the region.
“The people want social investment, like healthcare, education and the creation of jobs,” said the journalist who in the past has received extensive protection over death threats.
While the national government and the oil companies have promised to invest in the region, the journalist said these promises were never kept.
President Juan Manuel Santos told state radio that the protests were illegal. “Moreover there are accusations that these organizations are supported by guerrilla groups,” he said.
Santos is expected to travel to Arauca on Saturday to assess the situation and meet with the locals.