The tour of Europe by Maira Mendez Barbosa, who represents victims of serious human rights abuses in the mining region of Cesar in Colombia, has delivered an encouraging result. The head of the Italian energy company ENEL has said that he is fed up with the unresolved human rights issues. The Italians will send their own investigation team to Colombia. Depending on the outcome of that investigation, ENEL may conditionally suspend purchases of coal from the mining companies Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore.
Francesco Starace, CEO at ENEL, which is the largest energy company in Europe, stated at the shareholders’ meeting on 26 May that ENEL recognised the grievous human rights situation in Cesar and he expressed concern that it was still continuing. ENEL is taking the information provided by PAX and its associates seriously. Starace’s exact words were: ‘We are not walking away from this information. ENEL will start its own investigation in Cesar and if we don’t like the look of the results, we will do the same as Dong and stop buying coal from Cesar.’
Big news in Italy
Starace’s words were big news in Italy. In the Italian parliament, which received Maira, Starace’s statement was supported by MoVimento 5 Stelle, Italy’s largest opposition party. What is more, this party placed an article and a video about Maira and the human rights abuses in coal mining in Colombia on its very popular blog. There was also a great deal of interest from the media. All the biggest newspapers featured the story, including the Italian Metro and Corriere della Sera.
Tour of Europe
Maira Mendez Barbosa’s visit to Italy, where she was received by the Vatican and spoke at a meeting of Re:Common, was part of a tour of Europe. In France she addressed the shareholders’ meeting of the energy company EDF and in Germany she did the same at EnWB and RWE (Essent in the Netherlands). She had previously visited the Dutch company NUON and its parent company in Sweden, Vattenfall. In Denmark, she spoke at various 1 May events.
Prioritising reparations for victims
PAX welcomes the announcement by ENEL and calls on the company to replicate the example of Dong, Denmark’s largest energy company: first temporarily suspend the import of blood coal, start a serious investigation into the human rights abuses and, based on that, set up an action plan that prioritises reparations for victims of the violence during the period 1996 to 2016.