Violence in Bajo Cauca Over Illegal Mining Dispute Continues As Colombian Government Seeks To Restore Order
The Petro government and illegal miners in the Bajo Cauca region in Antioquia have been butting heads together after government agents decided to target some of these illegal mining activities and equipment in the area, with the government accusing the miners of helping fund illegal activities by cartels and gangs.
The protests began around March 2, as the workers of these illegal mines created road blockades and attacks on medical missions in the area as they call for the repeal of Decree 2235 of 2012, which allows the government to destroy many heavy machinery like “dredges, backhoes, bulldozers or other types of machinery for removing minerals, with similar technical characteristics” without the proper licenses.
The Petro administration has recently been pushing hard against illegal mining in the Bajo Cauca region, with Defense Minister Iván Velásquez tweeting the burning of five different dredges on March 2, calling them machines that “generated wealth for illegal armed organizations.”
La orden es perentoria: guerra total contra las finanzas criminales. Hoy, en el Bajo Cauca antioqueño, fueron destruidas 5 grandes dragas que generaban riqueza a las organizaciones armadas ilegales. pic.twitter.com/s0QEUwkz1T
— Iván Velásquez Gómez (@Ivan_Velasquez_) March 2, 2023
The government has also accused the protestors of being partially funded or pushed by drug cartels like the Clan del Golfo, with Aníbal Gaviria Correa, the governor of Antioquia, claiming that people are being taken to protest sites by dump trucks and that they are being paid for creating the chaos in the area.
“There is evidence that this group has gone to several municipalities to take men and young people out of their homes to put them in dump trucks to go to the demonstrations, that is a very complex situation. This is mixed with a number of armed actors who are in the background who are infiltrating the demonstrations,” Gaviria said.
Petro himself has shared footage of a group of people playing with a stretcher from an ambulance that was burned and, in a series of tweets, lamented the situation in the region right now.
“These young people have not received any studies and therefore do not even know that they became human rights violators. Do not care. They received money from the Clan del Golfon to do harm and pass off this violence as a social strike. They harm their own people and their family.”
“Unfortunately, the conditions of poverty make a part of the poor youth willing to sell themselves, sometimes to give a vote and elect the mobster in Congress who is going to rob them, sometimes to make a strike that generates self-destruction, sometimes to kill.”
“In mafia structures, more is paid to those who are more barbaric. Who kills more and with more cruelty because they can only have power with subjugated and cowed peoples.Liberating peoples is the real mission of the Colombian state. Build democracy where there is barbarism and ignorance.”
“The Clan del Golfo is the heir to the paramilitary structures of Urabá, which is why it was created by the state itself, but gained autonomy through drug trafficking and illegal mining. It acts by bribing officials and terrorizing the population.
“These structures are also the daughters of a failure: that of the peace process with the paramilitaries. The state has not been able to exercise sovereignty in areas where armed organizations decide to lay down their weapons. The State is not only weapons but democracy and social justice.”
The National Confederation of Miners of Colombia has condemned the accusations of the government that the Clan de Golfo is pushing for the protests, saying that “[violent] actions are not part of our civil methods to protest but rather deserve our full repudiation. The armed groups must put their hands away from the social mobilization and not contaminate it.”
As a response to the protests, Petro mobilized public security forces in the area to remove any road blockades and ensure that a steady supply of food will come to the area and that the medical teams and those in need will be able to access them easily.
The government has also initiated talks with the protestors to potentially see an end to the protests in the area.
“There is a commitment by the National Government to seek dialogue to the last instance, as stated by the Minister of the Interior, Alfonso Prada. That is why we have been working for the last two weeks with the Antioquia Governorate and the ministries on this proposal that can help to resolve the mining informality situation in depth, but also the very serious environmental effects,” Susana Muhamad, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, said.
Photo: Violence in Bajo Cauca from Twitter account of Antioquia governor Ánibal Gaviria