César García was engaged in the defence of peasant lands and was a leader of the environment movement. He was president of the La Vereda Cajón La Leona Community Action Committee, a member of the Cajamarca Environment and Peasant Committee and of the Tolima Environment and Peasant Committees Network.
La Colosa is an opencast mine opposed by local people because they feel it will have a disastrous impact on the community and the environment. The community has expressed its rejection of the project in a series of mass carnival marches in defence of water and life and in a popular referendum organised in the municipality of Piedras on 28 July. On that occasion, 99.2 per cent of votes were against the mega-mining project in a 60 per cent turnout of the electorate.
IndustriALL regrets this tragedy, which took place in the context of a major campaign to criminalise the organisations that have expressed their opposition to the project.
Members of the Environment Committee are being called enemies of progress in the region and have suffered threats and intimidation. On 26 October, a group of six people were hurt in an explosion on the highway. During a Rural Strike, several Cajamarca peasant and environment movement leaders and members of the Environment and Peasant Committee were threatened. Government security forces were implicated in these threats.
In response to César García’s death and the seriousness of the situation, environmental, human rights and trade union rights organisations call on:
- The Defender of the People to use the institution’s Early Warning System to document and issue warnings of the imminent threat to leaders of the Cajamarca Environmental Committee.
- The Ministry of the Interior’s Protection Unit to work with the Defender of the People to take measures to protect the committee’s leaders in order to prevent further killings and forced disappearances.
- The National Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Unit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to begin an ex-officio investigation into the killing of César García, allocate the case immediately to an investigator, investigate the reasons for the crime and capture the perpetrators.
- The Tolima Governor, as regional authority, to ask the competent authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the events, to identify the killers of César García and the intellectual authors of the crime and to pursue a line of inquiry based on consideration of who benefits from the crime.
- The international community to disseminate this communique, write to the Colombian government requesting protection of the life and personal integrity and security of the committee’s leaders and campaign for an end to mining in the area.
- The people of Tolima, the region and the country to send delegations to Cajamarca, Tolima, to attend events currently being organised to ensure there is no impunity for the killers of our colleague César García.
IndustriALL supports all these demands and calls on its affiliates to give their solidarity to the Colombian peasants who are being threatened and frightened just because they are defending their lands. IndustriALL demands an immediate investigation into the killing of César García and asks the authorities to provide guarantees for the security of the members of the community that are opposed to the La Colosa gold mining project.