Colombia: ASOQUIMBO Continues Land Liberations and Resistance to the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project
It has already been four months since the Association of Affected Peoples of the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project (ASOQUIMBO) began liberating the lands which are not destined to be inundated by the impending reservoir, but that are nonetheless properties of the company responsible for the mega-project, Emgesa-Endesa-Enel. These liberations started with farms in the Municipality of Altamira and spread quickly to include other farms in Garzón - such as the Santiago and Palacios farms. There are peasant families affected by the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project who are working and cultivating these lands, growing crops such as corn, plantains, yuca, beans, squash, and herding cattle. “Even though we have had our challenges, we the people affected by the Quimbo Dam have liberated these lands belonging to the transnational company as part of the struggle for the Agro-Nutritional Peasant Reserve that we need for our territory,” explained Mauricio Cabrera, a member of ASOQUIMBO from La Jagua in the Department of Huila. The company and the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA) have done everything possible not to comply with the environmental license and have chosen to not respect the decrees released by the Ombudsman’s Office in favor of the communities impacted by this mega-project, such as reopening the census of the impacted population. Regardless, the liberation of land by the impacted population is only an initial attempt to meet the obligations that the company itself has to “re-establish and legally and legitimately restore all productive activities, food security, and the right to a dignified life and work” for all the area's population. The land liberations are not land invasions; they are needed actions taken to guarantee a dignified life for the impacted population and to protect the region’s food sovereignty, a requisite clearly delineated in the environmental license. In June, the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH), that previously had sanctioned Emgesa-Endesa-Enel for the destruction of archeological remains, has now decided that the company is the responsible entity for the creation of a museum in the impacted area of the Quimbo Dam, subsequently taking control and possession of the remains of the region’s ancestors. In the meantime, the company contracted archeologists from the National University in Bogota to perform an archeological survey of the region impacted by the Quimbo Dam. ASOQUIMBO rejected this immediately. Members of Jaguos por el Territorio documented the archeologists during their survey in La Jagua as they were plundering human bones and ceramics from tombs that they found. In a meeting with the community, the archeologists and a representative from the company referred to the remains as “trash” and confirmed the planned destruction of the sacred petroglyphs in the area of the trenches and are insultingly proposing the creation of a replica. On August 14 the Municipal Council of Garzón organized a debate between the company Emgesa and ASOQUIMBO. After a presentation from council members, during which the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project’s environmental license and the company’s obligations were reviewed point by point, ASOQUIMBO and the company were able to state their case. What was shown, as has been said for some time now, is that the company has not met with any of their requirements and that the Ministry of Environment has not obligated the company to do so. Accordingly, the council members rejected the Plan of Territorial Order (POT) and have formally requested that the Ministry of Environment immediately suspend the hydroelectric project until the company complies with the environmental license in its entirety.
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