Colombia: 79 Police Taken Hostage in Protest Against Chinese-Owned Oil Company
During a protest against a Chinese-owned oil company in southern Colombia, 79 police officers were held captive by force. According to reports, Colombians protesting the poor state of roads took more than 80 police officers and oil workers hostage after raiding a field owned by a unit of China’s Sinochem Group, resulting in the death of one policeman and a civilian.
Footage from social media outlets depict the incident of Thursday where unarmed police officers were put into a truck and taken away. The rioting began when farmers blockaded a road near the compound of Emerald Energy and when the National Police’s anti-riot squad ESMAD began clearing the area to protect workers, protesters set fire to several buildings and began looting. The Indigenous Guard also detained nine oilfield workers of Emerald Energy prior to taking them hostage.
ACP, the Colombian Oil and Gas Association, publicly declared its condemnation of the acts of violence occurring at the Capella A field – which is part of the Ombu block – noting that this site has experienced blockages for the past 40 days. ACP reported that the field has been producing 2,000 barrels of oil daily, however, the protests have caused a decline of 80,000 barrels.
On Friday, President Gustavo Petro took to Twitter to declare that Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez will be in charge of the mission to cease the hostilities occurring in San Jose del Caguan. He took to Twitter to request aid from the Red Cross for those who had been taken hostage and attributed the rioting to “groups that want to destroy this government and plunge Colombia into war.” Velasquez, the Defense Minister, announced from Caqueta that the government will not negotiate with the protesters until the hostages are freed.
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