Colombian activists speak up on fracking

Activists reflect on dangers of fighting for human rights

Colombian human rights activist Ivan Madero speaking at the International Solidarity in Latin America event at Langara. Lina Chung Photo
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By Lina Chung

A human rights activist’s hope for the future is that his son and daughter will grow up in a more peaceful Colombia.

Ivan Madero is one of three Colombian human rights activists who were invited to come to Langara College on Nov. 6 to talk about their country’s recent political history and the Canadian resource companies that want to conduct hydraulic fracking in Colombia.

At high risks

Madero, speaking through an interpreter, said he recently found out that a paramilitary leader had put a 5 million peso (or $2000 Canadian) bounty on its head and that a grenade had been ordered to be planted in his car.

“You get used to it,” Madero said. He also said that his wife and two kids understand the work he does, and it helps that they receive support from psychologists to handle the stress.

Colombian lawyer Julia Figueroa has been involved in social, environmental and human rights causes for 20 years and said, “it’s our life project because all we have is blood.”

Canada’s involvement

The Canadian resource companies who are in Colombia are doing more bad than good, Figueroa said. “Their presence in our country is affecting our water, our animals, our plants, our very livelihood.”

Brent Patterson is the Canadian chapter executive director of Peace Brigades International, a non-governmental human rights organization, and has been accompanying the human rights activists on their Canadian tour. “Since the [2016 Colombian] peace agreement was signed, 738 human rights defenders have been killed,” Patterson said.

“[That’s] two activists killed every week.”

Patterson also said that one of the most harmful issues discussed among the Colombian activists is fracking, which is a process of blasting water and chemicals into the ground to retrieve petroleum.

“It is more polluting than the regular extraction process of oil,” Patterson said.

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