Nov 16, 2022 by Coalition

Open letter: international groups call for the respect of the right to protest and express solidarity with the Rios Vivos Movement

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In a joint open letter, a group of over 25 international organizations has expressed serious concerns for the threats faced by the human rights defenders who are part of Movimiento Rios Vivos and who are leading a powerful struggle against the Hidroituango dam. The 25 groups are calling on the Colombian national and local authorities to ensure local communities and activists can safely protest and carry out their human rights work, without fearing reprisals.

Located in northwestern Antioquia department, along the Cauca rivers, the Hidroituango dam is a mega-project developed by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) among others. It has caused serious environmental, social, economic and cultural harm in the territory and local communities, despite the serious reprisals faced (including threats, criminalization and even killings), have been courageously opposing the project since 2010.

The situation is particularly risky at the moment, as the company wants to evacuate the population as they’re doing technical tests at the site: local communities fear the devastating impact of these tests, carried out without the necessary technical assessment and without providing info to the local communities.

Below, the text of the letter.

 

Dear Sirs and Madams:

EPM (Jorge Andrés Carrillo Cardoso and Board of Directors)

Sociedad Hidroituango SA ESP (Manager Javier Darío Toro and Board of Directors)

Governor of Antioquia (Governor Anibal Gaviria)

Mayor of Medellín (Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle)

 

The rights of the demonstrators in the mobilisation and social protest action of the Rios Vivos Movement, on 15 November and beyond, must be respected.

 

Movimiento Rios Vivos is a movement which is internationally recognised and highly respected for its defence of the environment and human rights in Colombia. Its president Milena Florez, the leader Genaro Graciano and the leader Rudy Estela Posado Mazo – among other members – are very close to our organisations. Some members of Rios Vivos have participated in protection programmes for human rights defenders, where they have been able to deepen their knowledge of the cause they defend: for the undersigned organisations, they are an example to follow.

We call on all national, departmental and municipal authorities, as well as all the financiers supporting this project, to guarantee the safety and life of each and every one of the people in the movement who are demonstrating about the Hidroituango hydroelectric project.

We call them specifically to respect the right to peaceful protest in opposition to the installation of the project and its operation, which will take place from 15 November in the city of Medellín.

We also ask all the authorities to guarantee that there will be no reprisals during the demonstration or when the people will return to the territories once the protest is over, and that the lives of each member of the movement and their families will be protected.

We also call on the development banks that have financed the project to honour their commitments to participation and zero tolerance of reprisals against those who speak out about their projects, publicly expressing their support for the respect of the rights of defenders to demonstrate, communicating their concern to the Colombian authorities about the security threats that defenders are suffering, and asking the authorities to guarantee the safety of defenders. 

Credit: Rios Vivos Colombia

We are also very concerned by EPM’s announcement that the turbines are to be commissioned, even though we are aware of reports on the technical risks arising from the structural defects of the project and the instability of the rock massif, a risk that has been demonstrated and denounced over the years by the communities affected by Hidroituango. We also highlight the negative impact on the quality of life of the people who live in the territory, such as living under the anxiety and uncertainty of permanent risk. 

We are deeply concerned about the recent direct threats to members of the Movement. We ask the Colombian authorities for the protection and integrity of their lives. Economic interests cannot be placed above the life and well-being of people and nature.

Likewise, in the midst of this climate crisis, we cannot think of so-called “clean and sustainable energy” solutions that affect and violate human rights. As a well-known Nicaraguan environmentalist states, “there can be no climate justice without respect for human rights”.

 

Signatories

Agencia internacional por la paz y la noviolencia, Pressenza (Italia)

Asociación editorial de los Derechos Humanos – Multimage APS – (Italia) 

Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente – AIDA (regional)

Associazione Jambo ( Fidenza-Italia)

Burgos con Colombia (España)

Centro de Documentación y Solidaridad con América Latina y África-  CEDSALA (Estado Español)

Centro para el Derecho Ambiental Internacional – CIEL (internacional)

Coalition for Human Rights in Development

Colectivo de Colombianos-as Refugiados en Asturias (España)

Colectivo Maloka, Barcelona (Estado español)

Colectivo Memoria Viva de los Pueblos (España)

COLECTIVO SUR CACARICA (Valencia-Estado Español) 

Comisión Etica Internacional por la Verdad. Grupo Madrid (España)   

Coordinación Valenciana de Solidaridad con Colombia (España)

FOR Peace Presence (Austria)

Grupo belga Solidair met Guatemala (Bélgica)

Instituto de Cooperación Internacional y Desarrollo Municipal – INCIDEM (Estado español)

Mundubat (España)

Red europea de Comités Oscar Romero (SICSAL-Europa)

Red flamenca de solidaridad con la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó (Bélgica)

Reds -Red de solidaridad para la transformación social (Barcelona, Estado español)

Rete italiana di solidarietà Colombia Vive! (Italia)

SOLdePAZ.Pachakuti

Yaku (Italia)

XXI Solidario (España)