Two dead, over 80 kidnapped after protesters raid Colombian oil field

Andrea Jaramillo, Bloomberg March 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Colombians protesting the poor state of roads took more than 80 police officers and oil workers hostage after raiding an oil field owned by a unit of China’s Sinochem Group, according to local media reports. A policeman and a civilian are dead.

Social media videos show how the unarmed police were placed in a truck Thursday and taken away. Clashes between communities and the police began after a group broke into the oil field owned by Emerald Energy, a subsidiary of Sinochem. They set installations on fire to protest a lack of road repairs that the government and Emerald had allegedly promised more than a year ago, according to Caracol Noticias. 

The oil field is in the Amazonian province of Caqueta in southern Colombia.

Colombia’s oil industry has a history of violence from rebel groups and resistance from local communities, which makes it even harder for the country to reverse declining production of oil, a key source of export revenue.

President Gustavo Petro said Friday on Twitter that Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez will lead efforts to stop the violence from San Jose del Caguan. In separate tweets, he asked the Red Cross help attend those taken hostage and blamed the violence on “groups that want to destroy this government and plunge Colombia into war.”

Sinochem didn’t reply to several requests for comment.

The Colombian Oil and Gas Association, known as ACP, said in a statement it condemns the acts of violence in the Capella A field, which is part of the Ombu block, adding that it has suffered from blockages in the past 40 days.  

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