On the evening of Oct. 16, several Black and Indigenous leaders from throughout northern Cauca received the following death threat from the Rastrojos paramilitary group:
“We reiterate our position that we want a Colombia free of communists and guerrillas. We want a country where people support development. We manifest before the civilian population that we have been carrying out intelligence work since our arrival in southwestern Colombia in order to eliminate the guerrillas and the people that don’t want development and work such as the ACIN, ACONC, indigenous cabildos of Santander, black councils, SUTEC, Polo, Green Party, MIRA, ASI, and community assemblies.
“[…] We will do everything necessary [to stop you], and, no matter who falls, we declare the following people as military objectives: [redacted list of Black and Indigenous leaders from northern Cauca]
“We want a country without people like you. Let us work the mines because they belong to everyone. We are watching to see if you try to take away the machines that don’t belong to you.
“Wherever you hide, you will fall.”
Over the course of the last several months and years, these communities have officially denounced and protested illegal mining in their territories. Despite several laws that protect the rights of the communities, the government has not taken action.
ACSN has repeatedly expressed its concerns about illegal mining in northern Cauca and provided recommendations for government officials, but they do not do anything to ensure the rights of the communities. Therefore, we have a list of questions:
- Are government and military officials receiving payments or benefiting from the illegal miners?
- What is the value of a progressive legal structure protecting the rights of Black and Indigenous communities in Colombia?
- At what cost will the government push forward an exploitative development plan?
- When will governments complicit in promoting free trade and extractive industries (i.e. the United States, Canada, European Union, and South Korea) speak up about abuses that result from these policies and practices?
- Are Black and Indigenous people in expendable for the Colombian government?
The government should take immediate action to confiscate the machinery, investigate the perpetrators, and protect the communities.