The Colombian government supports a dialogue between mining companies active in Cesar and victims of the armed conflict.
Paula Gaviria, Presidential Advisor for Human Rights, expressed this support in a public letter addressed to representatives of the Cesar Peasant Assembly who, supported by PAX, represent 14 communities of victims of the armed conflict. The letter shows Gaviria’s broader support for a reconciliation dialogue in Cesar, which can include a wide range of regional actors.
In the letter, Mrs. Gaviria says “[This would be] a great precedent for the transformation of our country and the consolidation of a just, equitable and respectful society of rights. For this, we want to recognize the commitment of the Cesar Peasant Assembly and we encourage you to continue leading this process, since we are convinced that reconciliation and dialogue are decisive for the construction of a stable and lasting peace.”
PAX program leader Joris van de Sandt says, “We highly appreciate the leadership that Paula Gaviria is showing and call upon all actors to follow her lead and take concrete actions to start a dialogue between mining companies and the Peasant Assembly as legitimate representatives of victims of the armed conflict in Cesar.”
For several months now, PAX and the Cesar Peasant Assembly have been approaching mining companies in an effort to realize an open and sincere dialogue that helps victims achieve comprehensive reparations. These mining companies started exploring in the department of Cesar since the mid-1990s, in the midst of an armed conflict. At least 3,100 people were murdered and approximately 55,000 farmers were driven from their land in the mining region.
The rapprochement between mining companies and the victims of Cesar is showing clear signs of progress. Last September, mining company Prodeco took part, alongside nearly 800 victims, in a commemoration of a massacre by paramilitaries. On that occasion, Prodeco acknowledged the victims and said the company wants the truth to be known and for justice to be done.
Recently, Prodeco further demonstrated its good intentions in a public a statement in which the company emphatically rejects all threats and acts of violence against leaders and human rights defenders in Cesar. The statement was made in response to the threats made by a paramilitary group against trade unionists, students, human rights defenders, indigenous people, land restitution leaders, journalists, government officials and others.
PAX and the Cesar Peasant Assembly applaud the growing support for the initiative of an open and honest dialogue between the victims and the mining companies. PAX’s Van de Sandt says, “The history of Cesar has been especially violent and the latest threats show that violence has yet to be overcome. That makes it even more urgent to start a reconciliation dialogue.”
See also Stop Blood Coal