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Learning that a community consultation can take place in Colombia is great news, in a country where social demonstration has been historically repressed, even with extermination. It is even more significant because it implies a decision against an oil project.
Tauramena municipality, in the Colombian department of Casanare, voted against oil exploration and exploitation in the territory in a popular consultation held last weekend after a big awareness raising campaign. 4,426 of the 4,610 overall voters rejected the project, newspaper El Espectador reported. The project is the seismic exploration Odisea 3D, ran by public state-owned company Ecopetrol. The project would have comprised Tauramena, Aguazul, Recetor, Chámeza and Monterrey municipalities, all in Casanare department, and part of Paez municipalty in Boyacá.
The communities defended their territories, which they define as “water producers”.
In interview with Real World Radio, the coordinator of Friends of the Earth Colombia-CENSAT, Tatiana Roa, highlighted the defense of the plains, rich in water sources, in a region that has been carrying out oil extraction for thirty years.
The activist recalled that in January 2010 oil extraction operations stopped for over two months as a result of the communities demands, which saw their water sources at risk.
The community consultation is recognized under the Colombian constitution, and this one is the first one to be held on oil extraction.
Roa said that, even though the Colombian government said the consultation is not legally binding, it represents a great contribution to the country’s debate on the issue.
The backbone of Colombia’s economy, said Roa, is oil and coal extraction.
Roa also talked about the dismissal of Bogota’s mayor, Gustavo Petro, in a measure by the Attorney General that, if confirmed by the Executive Branch, would also ban him from applying for other public positions for 15 years.
“Every time a different ruler comes in this country, all possibilities for participation are closed. What we are witnessing today is the exact claim of the insurgent groups the Government has been meeting with, that there is no space for participation”, said CENSAT’s coordinator. She participated in several demonstrations against Petro’s destitution.
“Exercising democracy is still not allowed in this country. It is a democracy for a few”, she said.
“No queremos ser mártires, no queremos que hayan más mártires en este país, pero también hay una responsabilidad histórica de hacer valer la palabra y demostrar que tenemos derecho a la construcción de un mundo mejor. Y no podemos huir a esa responsabilidad”, dijo a Radio Mundo Real la dirigente garífuna Miriam Miranda, coordinadora de la Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH).
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