The Colombian oil company Ecopetrol announced she will not be renewing mid-May-2016 the contract allowing Pacific Rubiales’ exploitation activities in the most important oil field of the country, handing over to the state-managed Colombian company the last 65 000 barrels per day of its production.
The important Canadian oil extraction company Pacific Rubiales Energy has been found guilty in 2013 of a series of violations of labour and environmental rights as well as indigenous peoples’ rights by the People’s Court on extractive policies in Colombia.
This is a victory for the Common front against the renewal of the Campo Rubiales contract. The common front consisted of many union organizations, including the CUT and USO, of the elected representatives of the Polo Democratico as well as many ONGs. It was created in 2014 in order to oppose the renewal of the exploitation contract between Pacific Rubiales and Ecopetrol.
«As we move towards sovereignty, we move towards the construction of labour law», explains Fredy Pulecio, national leader of the Unión Sindical Obrera –USO-.
Since 2011, the indigenous communities and reserves of Puerto Gaitán, in the department of Meta, are mobilizing for the respect of environmental standards and to denounce the lack of benefits for the community. However, many substantive matters remain in abeyance in front of oil exploitation policies in Colombia. It is thus important to stay on guard and continue the pressures.
Ecopetrol’s decision appears in a context of crisis for the oil industry. The international prices for petroleum are declining, causing companies to reduce their investments in exploration and increasing production in order to compensate for revenue drops. Analysts state that taking control once again of the Rubiales field would involve greater investment than for Ecopetrol to maintain the production. This might result in the arrival of a new company in the region.
For the social and labouring sectors, this announcement represents an opportunity to assert their claims. Ricardo Apolinar, researcher for Choapo, corporation based in Meta, is considering new perspectives: «It is possible that the Gaitán community will negotiate demands with the new company. Aspects such as the rationalization of the region’s hydrocarbon exploitation, agricultural support programs as well as basic sanitation, will be discussed», explains Ricardo Apolinar.
It is a failure for the company Pacific Rubiales who is guilty of many violations, although once again treated with impunity, as well as a gain for the communities who dared to mobilize and claim their rights.