The Long Battle of Yukpa, Lara Montesinos Coleman & Helena Mullenbach Martinez (Le Monde Diplomatique)

“No Climate Justice Without Social Justice”: Juan Pablo Gutierrez, International Representative of Colombia’s Yucpa Tribes, Speech in Madrid, October 21, 2021

A Perez Meca European Press Getty

n On March 6, Esneda Saavedra Restrepo was at home with her children in the northernmost part of the Andes Mountains (Serranía de Perijá) in northeastern Colombia. The first female governor of the Yukpa Indigenous people, Saavedra is an internationally renowned land advocate and climate change activist. She has led the struggle to defend Yukpa’s territory and community. Open-pit coal mining by European and US multinationals has resulted in what Yukpa calls genocide.

That day, when Saavedra went outside to protect her children, the men tried to shoot her dead. She saved her life, but there was little international attention for this serious matter to her life. If this had happened to Greta Thunberg, there would have been an outburst of global outrage, as Juan Pablo Gutierrez, head of international relations for the Colombian Indigenous Organization, had trouble stressing.

The Yucpa live near the border of Colombia and Venezuela, where they have five open pit coal mines occupying 16,732 hectares of land. A combination of air pollution, loss of ancestral lands and diversion of water sources essential to the survival of the Yukpa people has led to widespread disease and death. This includes the deaths of 42 of his children between 2018 and his 2019 in Sokolpa Reserve, his one Yukpa community where Saavedra is governor. Alongside massive mining, oil palm plantations are further displacing the Yukpa from their ancestral lands, and climate change is hampering their ability to grow crops on their remaining territories. , declared Yukpa to be endangered.

But Yukpa makes it clear that their struggle is not just for their own survival. “Indigenous peoples have a legacy in the world,” explained another Yukpa leader. “We want everyone to join us in defending this land.”

The price of this resistance was heavy. In Colombia, links between multinational corporations and state-sponsored far-right death squads are widely documented. Banana multinational Chiquita Brands even admits to paying paramilitaries her $1.7 million. According to the Colombian Attorney General, these payments led to the murder of 4,000 civilians in Colombia’s Banana region and helped expand paramilitary groups across the country. (1)In 2015, a lawyer filed a lawsuit against BP in the London High Court on behalf of Gilberto Torres, a Colombian trade unionist who was kidnapped by militias in 2002. % shares paid his $40,000 extra to make Torres ‘disappear’ (2). There are many other examples.

Swiss- and US-based multinationals operating coal mines in and near Yukpa’s territory are no exception. US-based Drummond and Prodeco (a subsidiary of Swiss multinational Glencore) have created a dedicated militia front to protect corporate interests and support new troops and equipment, according to a statement by the militia commander. paid millions of dollars to militias to (3).

In December 2022, Colombia’s Constitutional Court accepted the case on behalf of Yucpa, demanding an “ex-post consultation” and compensation for what lawyers say was physical and cultural genocide. Yukpa makes clear that reparations must extend beyond monetary measures. They argue that reparations must include a just transition from fossil fuel extraction following the closure of the mine. not.

Just three days before she was attacked in March this year, Saavedra was speaking to a group of British students and academics at the University of Sussex about her people’s struggles. Saavedra is known as a result of her longtime connections with Colombian social movements through her Capital and Accountability projects. With the participation of Colombian social movement leaders and lawyers, as well as the UK-based anti-poverty charity War on Want, the project aims to ensure that compensation for damages caused by corporations is a law designed for the benefit of society. It revolved around the question of whether it can be achieved within the framework of the capital.

Gilberto Torres was at the center of this collaboration, and his case in the London High Court against BP presents some issues with the legal mechanisms of accountability. Despite the fact that the Torres kidnapper told a Colombian court that he received orders directly from his operator of BP’s pipeline, the legal structure of the corporation would not allow the creators of the corporation and the beneficiaries of such crimes to do so. help protect people. Moreover, in cases like Yukpa, the prevailing legal narrative fails to recognize the harm to life, land, and territory caused by the normal operation of extractionist capitalism.

In June 2022, Sussex University students hosted an event to learn directly from Torres and other speakers and hear recorded messages from Yukpa leaders. They support strategic litigation and meaningful reparations, building bridges so that the voices of those most affected by fossil fuel extraction and the broader climate crisis are at the forefront of the climate justice movement. established a network to build international solidarity for With Saavedra’s life at stake, it’s even more important to increase the visibility of her struggle with Yukpa, they say. The Long Battle of Yukpa, Lara Montesinos Coleman & Helena Mullenbach Martinez (Le Monde Diplomatique)

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