PAX is deeply shocked by the murder of Nestor Ivan Martinez, the leader of a social movement in Cesar, the Colombian mining region where European power companies obtain their blood coal. The organization he represented received serious threats two weeks previously in a pamphlet published by a new illegal armed group.
PAX fears that this targeted killing could mark the start for a new wave of violence in the mining region, where paramilitary violence has already claimed tens of thousands of victims.
Nestor Martinez was involved in several social movements and was a symbol for the fight against the negative impact of the coal mines in the Cesar region in northeastern Colombia. He was one of the activists who opposed the expansion of the mines owned by the American mining company Drummond. Last Sunday, 11 September 2016, two unknown armed men forced their entry into the farm of Martinez’s brother in the village of Chiriguaná. They tied up his brother and his brother’s wife, waited for Martinez to arrive and then shot him in the head with two bullets before the eyes of his family.
This targeted murder, like the many threats that preceded it, has a paralyzing effect on people who promote human rights, better working conditions, and reparations for the large-scale paramilitary violence in the past in the mining region.
Chiriguaná, the village where Martinez lived and was murdered, was the place where the father of Maira Méndez was shot dead in her presence fifteen years ago. Only last May, Méndez toured Europe to tell governments and energy companies about the current and recent violence in Cesar. The region is now gripped by fear because the murder of Martinez was announced beforehand. On 25 August this year, a pamphlet was distributed in a number of municipalities in southern Cesar in which an armed neo-paramilitary group (Grupo Armado de Limpieza Social, or ‘Armed Group for Social Cleansing’) made serious threats against the social organization to which Nestor Martinez belonged.
Energy companies must stop buying blood coal now
For years, PAX has been giving support to the victims of paramilitary violence in Cesar, which resulted in more than 3000 people being murdered during the period 1996 to 2006, and 55,000 people being driven from their land. PAX has constantly warned energy companies that buy blood coal from Cesar that people who campaign for justice and reparations are still being plagued by violence and death threats. Despite these warnings, the energy companies-with the exception of the Danish company DONG-continue to supply blood-coal power to millions of European homes. PAX believes that energy companies should immediately stop buying blood coal until the current violence has ceased and the victims of earlier paramilitary violence have received the reparations to which they are entitled.
PAX urges the Colombian authorities to initiate an investigation into the murder of Martinez in short order. Furthermore, other community leaders should be given protection with immediate effect, and guarantees that everything possible will be done to stop crimes of this nature. The mining companies in the region should also publicly denounce this targeted killing.
PAX was present at the funeral and expresses its deepest sympathy for the family of Nestor Martinez and the community whose interests he served.
See also In Depth: Stop Blood Coal