Category Archives: Colombia

(HB) Germany’s Blood Coal

(HB) Activists say that demand for cheap Colombian coal from German utilities such as Uniper and RWE is leading to systematic killings and evictions in the country.

Kolumbien befeuert Energiewende
Open-cast mines in Colombia’s Cesar region have been a source of conflict. Source: dpa

It’s not often that the subject of murder is raised at a shareholder meeting.

So it’s fair to say that the comments made by Maina van der Zwan at the otherwise uneventful AGM of German energy company Uniper were unexpected.

Holding up a grainy picture of a Colombian man, the activist at Dutch NGO Pax announced: “He was the spokesman for a community which had opposed the expansion plans of a mining company in the Colombian region of Cesar. On September 11, he was murdered in cold blood.”

The shock tactics were clear: Uniper, along with fellow leading German energy suppliers RWE and EnBW, all import coal from Colombia.

Without foreign coal, the lights would go out in much of Germany. Almost 20 percent of the country’s electricity comes from burning so-called hard coal, the most energy-rich form. Some 90 percent of this is imported, with Colombia supplying almost a quarter of this.

“If we don’t buy their coal, someone else will.”

Klaus Schäfer, CEO, Uniper

Coal mining in the South American country is big business, and local mining concerns are owned by global giants such as Anglo-American, BHP-Billiton, Glencore and Xstrata, not to mention Goldman Sachs. With Germany’s hard coal mines set to close in 2019, the exporter will only become more important.

But hard coal imports from Colombia are not without problems. According to PAX, paramilitaries have displaced more than 55,000 people since 1996 and murdered more than 3,100 because of their opposition to open-cast mining in Cesar, which lies near the Venezuelan border. The mine operators claim to have no contact with these groups, but they directly benefit from forced relocations and destruction of homes.

“This coal is covered in blood,” said Mr. van der Zwan. “Anyone who opposes coal mining and the expulsion of human beings is threatened or murdered.”

Several European companies, including the Danish state-owned energy provider Dong and Italy’s Enel, have stopped importing coal from the region after carrying out investigations. But Uniper, the fossil fuel spinoff of utility E.ON, has no intention of pulling out of Colombia. “If we don’t buy their coal, someone else will. At least this way we can influence our suppliers,” said CEO Klaus Schäfer.

Neither Uniper nor RWE divulges which region in Colombia they get their coal from, but nor do they rule out Cesar as a source. RWE has called the situation in Cesar “concerning,” but, like Uniper, it justifies its refusal to stop doing business there by citing its work with local producers and commitment to a scheme called Bettercoal.

This initiative by European energy firms aims to promote better business and ethical practices among local suppliers, and provides a platform for dialogue with miners and NGOs such as PAX.

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Through Bettercoal, Uniper says it has established “standards for corporate responsibility, which are evaluated on the ground through audits.” The company says it reserves the “right to terminate contracts,” though it has noted that it doesn’t have any plans to do so.

Sebastian Rötters, from the German environmental group Urgewald, isn’t impressed. He said Bettercoal did little more than “analyze operating procedures” and send questionnaires to mine operators. “This is absolutely inadequate,” he added. Urgewald wants utility firms to become more active on the ground.

EnBW did just that, conducting an investigation in Cesar. It determined that a power vacuum had emerged in regions such as Cesar once the left-wing guerrilla group FARC, or Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, had withdrawn.

But it failed to spur the Karlsruhe-based company to action. “Setbacks always have to be reckoned with,” it concluded.

(BBC) Colombians celebrate as peace deal is reached with Farc rebels

(BBC) Hundreds of Colombians have celebrated an historic peace accord between the government and left-wing Farc rebels, signed after 52 years of conflict.

The announcement was broadcast live on Wednesday from Havana, Cuba, where peace talks have been held for more than two years.

The conflict has killed an estimated 220,000 people and displaced millions.

President Juan Manuel Santos called the deal “the beginning of the end to the suffering, pain and tragedy of war”.

‘War is over’

“The Colombian government and the Farc announce that we have reached a final, full and definitive accord,” Colombian government and Farc negotiators said in a joint statement.

The head of the Colombian delegation, Humberto de la Calle, and the chief Farc negotiator, Ivan Marquez, signed the agreement at a ceremony in Cuba.

Both sides have agreed to work together to address social exclusion, to deliver justice to the victims of the conflict and build a stable and enduring peace.

Colombia's FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (L) and Colombia's lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (R) shake hands while Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looks on, after signing a final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, August 24, 2016.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionColombian government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (right) and his Farc counterpart Ivan Marquez (left) signed the agreement as Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez watched

“We have reached our goal,” said Mr de la Calle.

“The war is over but also there is also new beginning. This agreement opens the door to a more inclusive society,” he added.

People celebrate the announcement from Havana, Cuba, that delegates of Colombia's government and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reached a peace accord to end their half-century civil war, in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionThe announcement was broadcast live from Havana and was shown on large screens in the streets of Bogota

‘Die in peace’

In Bogota, hundreds of people, many dressed in white, gathered at different points of the city waving the Colombian flag and cheering.

“I can die in peace because finally I’ll see my country without violence with a future for my children,” 57-year-old Orlando Guevara told the Associated Press news agency.

Farc negotiator Ivan Marquez said the Farc and the government had “won the most beautiful of all battles: the peace of Colombia”.

Grey line

At the scene: Will Grant, BBC News, Havana

FARC and government negotiators in HavanaImage copyrightREUTERS

Together, the once bitter enemies stood – guerrilla leaders and former generals, foot soldiers and career diplomats – and sang the Colombian national anthem.

In the end their shared understanding of what Colombia is, appears to have won out over their sharp differences as the two sides took their seats to announce the end of almost five decades of fighting.

It has taken nearly four years of talks, which on several occasions looked on the verge of collapse.

The question now, as the peace process moves from Havana back to Bogota, is whether the terms agreed in Havana will be acceptable to the Colombian people. A referendum on the deal is expected in October.

Grey line

The two sides had signed a bilateral ceasefire in June, paving the way for a final agreement.

“It has been a difficult job, with bright and dark moments,” added Mr Marquez.

President Barack Obama phoned his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, to congratulate him on the deal.

“The president recognised this historic day as a critical juncture in what will be a long process to fully implement a just and lasting peace agreement that can advance security and prosperity for the Colombian people,” said the White House in a statement.

‘No winners or losers’

Under the terms of the agreement, the Farc will give up its armed struggle and join the legal political process.

In this Aug. 16, 2016 photo, rebels of the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, laugh during a break, at their camp in the southern jungles of Putumayo, Colombia. As Colombia€™s half-century conflict winds down, with the signing of a peace deal perhaps just days away, thousands of FARC rebels are emerging from their hideouts and preparing for a life without arms.Image copyrightAP
Image captionFarc fighters have agreed to end their five-decade long struggle and lay down their arms for good

“There is no room for winners or losers when you achieve peace through negotiations,” tweeted Farc negotiator Rodrigo Granda. “Colombia wins, death loses.”

The left-wing rebels have been fighting Colombian government since 1964. It is the longest-running conflict in Latin America.

The deal will need to be approved by Colombians in a popular vote, which will take place on 2 October, Mr Santos announced.

“It will be the most important election of our lives,” he said on national television shortly after the deal was signed.

Former President Alvaro Uribe is leading the campaign to get the agreement rejected.

+++ (JN) Pedro Soares dos Santos: “Peso do sector público está a matar o privado” no país

(Negócios)

Pedro Soares dos Santos: "Peso do sector público está a matar o privado" no país

MIGUEL BALTAZAR/NEGÓCIOS
O presidente da Jerónimo Martins voltou a elogiar o ambiente de captação da iniciativa privada na Colômbia, por oposição a Portugal.

O “peso do sector público em Portugal está a matar lentamente o sector privado”, defendeu esta terça-feira, 15 de Março, o presidente da segunda maior cotada da praça portuguesa. “E isso vê-se nos impostos”, “o nível da carga de impostos que as pessoas e as empresas têm”, acrescentou, em declaração aos jornalistas, durante uma visita ao centro de distribuição de Barranquilha, na Colômbia.

“Aqui [na Colômbia] vê-se o Estado muito mais a acreditar no sector privado que é o motor da grande economia”, defendendo que o sector privado tem que ser sempre maior que o sector publico. “Se não for assim, não consigo ver como é que os países podem ser viáveis”.

A JM, dona da cadeia portuguesa Pingo Doce e da grossista Recheio, que desde 1995 é dona da polaca Biedronka, lucrou 333,3 milhões de euros em 2015, ano em que o volume de negócios ascendeu a 13,72 mil milhões de euros. Destes, mais de nove mil milhões de euros vieram directamente da Polónia. “Somos uma companhia polaca com sede em Portugal”, disse na apresentação de resultados, há duas semanas, Pedro Soares dos Santos.