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Remembering Colombian land defender Hernán Bedoya

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Image: Peace Brigades International

The United Nations has highlighted that human rights defenders play an important role in helping to avert further climate breakdown.

The Global Climate Strike on September 20 and September 27 is an opportunity for people around the world concerned by climate change to acknowledge that role and the risks land and environmental defenders face.

On July 30, the Global Witness report Enemies of the State?  highlighted that 164 land and environment defenders were killed in 2018.

That report specified that in 2018: 24 land and environment defenders were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 14 in Mexico, 4 in Honduras, 2 in Kenya, and 1 in Indonesia.

That report notes that among the key resource sectors that are driving the violence against human rights defenders is agribusiness.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has reported, "Unfortunately, because current palm oil production methods often cause the destruction of carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands, it is a major contributor to global warming."

In 2012, the top palm oil producing countries included Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala. Colombia is the fourth-largest producer globally and the largest in Latin America.

Danilo Rueda is with the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, an organization accompanied by the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project.

In an interview with PBI-Colombia, Rueda says, "Palm oil means death because of the violence it brings with it and because of the environmental damage it causes. Because big business, hand in hand with Colombian and international policy, is destroying water sources and flora and fauna by depleting the forests. This is capitalist logic, which favours the accumulation of capital, and in the long term, the effects are highly negative."

The death of Afro-Colombian land rights activist Hernán Bedoya has been linked to the expansion of the palm oil industry in that country.

The Guardian has reported, "Bedoya was shot 15 times on 5 December [2017] while he was riding his horse to the vet in Pedeguita y Mancilla, Chocó."

That article explains, "A year before he died, Hernán warned the palm oil companies planned to plant another 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres), which would be impossible unless he and more than a dozen other campesinos were dispossessed."

And it notes, that the "leader of the opposition to palm oil plantations -- was assassinated by a gang linked to agribusiness and narco-traffickers. …[His son believes] his father's death was ordered by a politician, who secures land for businesses with the hired muscle of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia."

The writing in the PBI-Colombia photo included at the top of this article reads: "Sin olvido (we will not forget you) Hernán Bedoya."

Hernán has not been forgotten and his story will be remembered and recounted by PBI-Canada during the Global Climate Strike next month.

A 4-minute video featuring Hernán shared by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, Frontera Invisible and Transport & Environment can be seen here.

Brent Patterson is a writer, political activist and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada.

Image: Peace Brigades International

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