Colombians protesting the poor condition of roads took more than 80 police officers and oil workers hostage after raiding an area owned by a unit of China’s Sinochem Group, according to local media reports. A policeman and a civilian have died.
Social media videos show how unarmed policemen were taken away in a truck on Thursday. Clashes broke out between the communities and the police after a group entered an area owned by Emerald Energy, a subsidiary of Sinochem. According to Caracol Noticias, they set the installations on fire to protest the lack of road repairs the government and Emerald had allegedly promised more than a year ago.
The region is in the Amazonian province of Caquetá in southern Colombia.
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Colombia’s oil industry has a history of violence from rebel groups and resistance from local communities, making it even more difficult for the country to reverse declining oil production, a major source of export revenue.
President Gustavo Petro said on Twitter on Friday that Defense Minister Iván Velasquez would lead efforts to stem the violence from San Jose del Caguan. In separate tweets, he asked the Red Cross to help hostages and blamed the violence on “groups that want to destroy this government and plunge Colombia into war.”
Sinochem did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Colombian Oil and Gas Association, better known as the ACP, said in a statement that it condemns the acts of violence in the Capella A area, which is part of the Ombu block, adding that it has seen violence in the past 40 days. Suffers from obstructions.