Neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” has effectively shut down gold mines owned by Canadian mining company Gran Colombia Gold in the north of the country after killing one miner and threatening more than 1,500 others.
According to national press agency Colprensa, some 1,600 have suspended work after the death of miners’ leader Fernando Silva Henao and threats to kill others who refuse to obey the order of the group that calls itself the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.”
The threats are targeting employees of Samasa, a company that manages the gold production for Gran Colombia Gold’s in three mines in Segovia, Antioquia.
“We have decided to [target] any rat, disobedient, [and] snitch who does not comply and continues to work for Mr. [Edgar] Julio Erazo,” boss of the mining subsidiary, the Urabeños said in a message spread through pamphlets and social media platform Whatsapp.
According to Gran Colombia Gold, the neo-paramilitary group is targeting its workers in order to force the company to pay extortion money.
“All this is related to a series of threats that has flooded us over the non-payment of extortion money. They are threatening the workers and the leaders of the mines through several warning and and pamphlets in which they are declared a military objective,” Gran Colombia Gold was cited by newspaper El Espectador.
After the death of Henao, who was shot six times by men on a motorbike on Thursday, workers obeyed the order and laid down work.
“Why am I going to be the brave one if I’m not able?” an anonymous miner told Medellin newspaper El Colombiano. “Ever since the first threat I have been nervous … My family is very worried. They say they can’t endure more of this incertitude and insist I stop being stubborn.”While the threats have been going on for months, regional authorities did not respond until after the assassination of the miners’ leader.
Antioquia Government Secretary Estaban Mesa said the army has sent an extra 130 troops to support the 50 policemen who generally provide security in the town of 45,000 souls. These additional forces are “carrying out a security strategy for the miners and the municipal administration,” Mesa told El Colombiano.
The Urabeños seem hardly impressed by the government’s attempts to impose security.
“Remember, people of Segovia, that the law is not always going to be there and we, the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces, will always remain,” the neo-paramilitary group’s latest threat said.