Source: Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 6 June 2010
Since BP began oil exploration and production in Casanare, Colombia in the early 1990s, six thousand people have been assassinated and three thousand people disappeared. Every time there have been complaints or protests in opposition to BP's interests, the community leaders concerned have been killed. This indicates an elimination strategy of violent social control. The agents have been the military and paramilitary groups, but BP as a corporation has itself been complicit in the human rights violations.
Despite its public statements accepting the right of trade union organisation, in practice BP has refused to enter a collective agreement with the National Oil Workers Union (USO) or recognising any of the principal elements of trade union recognition. USO organisers that have tried, have been driven out of the region or into exile.
There has been an upsurge in workers and community protests against BP in Casanare since the beginning of 2010. Workers at the Tauramena Central Processing Facility (CPF) starting 22 January went on strike supported by USO, the National Oil Workers Union of Colombia. On 15 February riot police brutally attacked the picket line, sending three workers to hospital. Demonstrations and popular assemblies in support of the stoppage took place in Tauramena and surrounding villages from February onwards. The USO union and many different community sectors came together to form the Movement for the Dignity of Casanare. The strike ended after 30 days when BP promised talks.
BP agreed to enter negotiations and there have since been five commissions dealing with labour issues, the environment, local supply of goods and services, social investment and human rights. The community has deep and long standing grievances. Environmental damage, for example, is extensive stemming from BP’s production practices such as diverting water sources underground to pressure up the oil; contamination from gas flaring and ground failures from seismic testing.
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See also Public Hearing On BP’s Activities In Colombia.