Rejection of increased imports of Colombian coal to Germany
On April 6, 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held a phone call with Colombian President Iván Duque. They discussed increasing imports of Colombian coal into Germany, among other things. This will enable Germany to partly replace its demand for Russian coal in order to comply with the sanctions imposed on this country for the invasion of Ukraine.
We, Unidas por la paz – Alemania, as a collective of the Colombian diaspora committed to defending the excluded communities in our country, strongly reject this increase in demand for Colombian coal. It has been proven that the largest coal exporting companies in Colombia have committed numerous human rights and environmental violations that have mainly affected the communities living in the areas of exploitation. The worst abuses occur in the regions of La Guajira and Cesar, where 90% of the country's coal is extracted.
The growing demand for Colombian coal gives new impetus to El Cerrejón, the largest coal mine in Latin America, located in the territory of the Wayú indigenous people, in La Guajira, northern Colombia. Glencore, owner of El Cerrejón, had originally announced the closure of the mine last year due to the low demand for the material, but now plans to increase its production to supply the demand in Germany, among others.
One day after the call between the two heads of state, El Cerrejón received the permit from Iván Duque's administration to divert the Bruno stream and exploit the mineral found in its bed. The Bruno stream is the main tributary of the Ranchería River, the only river in the Guajira desert region, on which multiple indigenous, Afro-descendant and farming communities depend for their survival. Experts warn that the detour of the stream will cause it to dry up, preventing access to water for thousands of people.
The coal mining permit for the Bruno stream was granted by the administration of president Iván Duque without the consent of the Wayú people or the experts who warned of the danger of drought. By doing so, the president violates a Colombian constitutional court ruling that prevented the detour of the tributary without first consulting the affected parties. This is another of the authoritarian acts of the current government, which became internationally known for its serious human rights violations during the demonstrations that took place in the country in 2021.
We understand that the purchase of Russian coal is financing the tragedy of the Ukrainian people, that is why we welcome Germany's attempt to reduce its consumption. However, we consider it unethical from any point of view to solve this problem by increasing the purchase of Colombian coal. This would mean depriving the indigenous peoples and other communities of La Guajira of access to water.
We call on the entire Colombian and Latin American diaspora, human rights organizations and other interested people to also reject the demand for Colombian coal, obtained at the expense of the water of our indigenous peoples.
Germany and Europe decided to stop their consumption of Russian coal as a rejection of the injustice to the Ukrainian people. Now they should be consistent and avoid Colombian coal as well, so as not to finance the suffering of the Wayú people and other communities abused by coal exploitation.
Human and environmental rights are not optional! No more imports of Colombian coal to Europe!
Berlin, April 19th, 2022