Between the 27th and 29th of June, about three hundred and fifty farmers, small miners, human rights defenders, accompaniers, and lawyers met in San Pedro Frío, a mountaintop town in the south of Bolívar where CPT has had a presence for several years.
The purpose of this confluence, to which many Colombians had to travel for days, was to host the second of four “pre-hearings” featuring testimony in cases of human rights abuses by multinational corporations and the State. This particular hearing focused on the Canadian gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti, which increased its presence in Colombia in the early 2000s (shortly after the institution of the U.S.’ Plan Colombia, and an amendment requiring Colombia to open its economy to foreign investment). Since that time, witnesses testified, the company has committed or supported grave human rights violations in order to acquire mining rights in these potentially lucrative territories. The pre-hearings were set up to prepare for a people’s trial set to begin today in Bogotá.
Many of the speakers in the video have received threats to their own and their families’ lives from paramilitary organizations, and harassment from the armed forces; many of their compatriots have been disappeared or assassinated. During the hearing in San Pedro Frío, soldiers appeared and crowded around the central plaza where the event was being held, remaining there fully armed for over an hour. Nonetheless, witnesses continued to share stories from six different regions of Colombia about the behavior of AngloGold Ashanti in their territories, as the multinational seeks to establish open-pit gold mines in areas where communities currently exist. As one young man stated during the pre-hearing, “This is happening all over the place. For those of us who hardly ever leave the area we sometimes think that we are the only ones living this situation.”
Please watch this twenty-minute video (it has English subtitles) to learn more about the pre-hearing and today’s trial, and the details of the case being made against AngloGold Ashanti.