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Nearly 350 people of the more than 400 who have taken refuge for over seven months at the University of Antioquia, in Medellin, Colombia, decided to return to their lands. They were displaced by hydroelectric project Hidroituango and will go back to their lands on Friday.
Fabio Muñoz, a representative of the movement Movimiento Rios Vivos in Antioquia, told Real World Radio they signed an agreement with the local government that gives them no guarantee whatsoever. But, since there are no alternatives that would take the demands of the people displaced into account “we have to go back to our land and look for new forms and strategies of protest to reach solutions” to the impacts caused by the building of the dam. “It is an agreement that is only binding to us”.
“We return without guarantees, because the armed conflict continues in the region”, a conflict that favors the local government and the companies running the Hidroituango dam so that the project materializes, said Muñoz. Nearly 70 people will stay in Medellin, some of them because they have received death threats and others because they don’t have easy access to housing in their lands. However, they are expected to go back to their municipalities and territories next week.
“We need to go back to our lands, to continue working”, so we can live a dignifying life, Muñoz told Real World Radio. He called the international community to be alert to what happens to the communities’ return to their homes. Real World Radio joins this call. Many villagers live on washing the sands of Cauca river in search for gold, other peasants live on agriculture. The leader blamed the government of Antioquia for whatever happens to the people displaced by Hidroituango while they return to the different municipalities affected by the dam.
In a press release issued yesterday by Movimiento Rios Vivios, the members of the movement in Antioquia said “there are no safety conditions to go back”.
Some days ago a bomb exploded outside the house of Genaro Graciano, one of the movement’s leaders, in Ituango municipality. In mid September Nelson Giraldo Posada was killed. He was also a resident of Ituango and another leader of the movement. He was in charge of a group of nearly 50 people who have taken refuge at the University of Antioquia.
There is rampant insecurity. “However, as a result of the economic pressure and the lack of adequate solutions by the authorities and promoters of the Project, the people affected have decided to go back to their territory. So we warn the human rights organizations and watchdog groups to be alert”, read the press release.
Hidroituango is owned by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM). According to the company’s webite, the Project will include a 225 meter-high dam, located on river Cauca and it will flood 3,800 hectares of land. It will have a reservoir of nearly 80 km. The area that will be directly affected includes the following municipalities: Ituango, Toledo, San Andrés de Cuerquia, Valdivia, Briceño, Yarumal, to the north of Antioquia, and Peque, Buriticá, Sabanalarga, Liborina, Olaya and Santa Fe de Antioquia, to the west.
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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