In an unique interview with Local weather Dwelling, 21-year-old Yuvelis Natalia Morales speaks out on the activism that just about value her her life
When Yuvelis Natalia Morales determined to discovered a youth activist group protesting fracking tasks in Colombia, she had little thought she was becoming a member of a struggle between preservation and revenue that threatens to tear her homeland aside.
From Puerto Wilches, a city on the Magdalena River in Colombia’s northern Santander province, Morales grew up on the doorstep of one of the pristine pure habitats on Earth.
“This space is presumably probably the most biodiverse in Colombia, the place there’s probably the most water, most animals, and most inexperienced zones,” she stated. “And it’s additionally the realm with probably the most armed militias.”
Regardless of comparatively small reserves, Colombia is closely reliant on oil income. Though fracking was outlawed nationally in 2018, the ban doesn’t cowl pilot tasks.
When, in 2020, a authorized bid to dam these tasks failed, Colombia’s Nationwide Hydrocarbon Company (ANH) assured environmental teams that the pilots would solely be allowed in two areas: the Cesar-Ranchería Basins within the nation’s excessive north and the Center Magdalena Valley, the place Puerto Wilches sits.
Native vitality firm Ecopetrol started its pilot within the Magdalena Valley in late 2020. “They began doing this like they have been working a race,” says Morales, now 21.
“They began approving issues day after day. There wasn’t time for anybody, for the group, to do something. All the pieces began occurring very quick.”
Fearing the mission would result in environmental devastation, Morales based Aguawil (Comité para la Defensa del Agua, la Vida, y el Territorio), to carry fellow native land defenders collectively, and joined the Alliance to Preserve Colombia Free from Fracking.
“This committee is sort of particular and is essential in Colombia because it’s a youth committee. We’re all between 18 and 25 years outdated,” Morales tells Local weather Dwelling.
“As soon as we began organizing, they began to threaten us.”
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Morales says that she was first threatened publicly by native officers throughout a debate in Puerto Wilches. However she continued, serving to in December 2020 to organise a carnival march the place a minimum of 3,000 folks protested towards the tasks.
“This was a milestone as a result of usually this doesn’t occur as individuals are very afraid,” she says.
“Nonetheless, we did it and other people went into the streets to say we don’t need fracking in our territories, that that is unhealthy politics.”
After the march, the threats started to come back extra incessantly.
“They’d name our telephones, come to our homes, threaten our mother and father, saying they’d take away their jobs,” Morales says. “They began to persecute them, calling them ‘guerrillas’. In Colombia, after they label you a guerrilla, this implies loss of life.”
Morales says she had a member of the military contact her with a warning: “Why are you getting concerned with this fucking fracking? They’re solely going to kill you.”
Then, one evening in January 2021, “some armed males got here to my home and trapped me,” she says. “They put a gun to my head.”
Morales fled her residence, first to the capital Bogota, then overseas.
Based on International Witness, Colombia is the world’s most harmful nation for environmental activists, with 65 killings of land defenders recorded in 2020. In April 2021, Peace Brigades Worldwide Colombia stated that members of Aguawil and different environmental teams had been topic “to loss of life threats, assassination makes an attempt, compelled displacements, and gender violence”.
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Morales stresses that she didn’t know which organisation the individuals who threatened her have been performing on behalf of, however says her makes an attempt to report the intimidation to the authorities fell on deaf ears.
“They by no means let you know something,” she says. “I needed them to research however they by no means did.”
As soon as she reached security, Morales linked with different nationwide and worldwide anti-fracking organisations. She says doing so made her realise that her case was removed from remoted.
“That is very severe as a result of on the time I used to be 20 and there have been others who have been solely 17,” she says.
“We learnt that there are lots of youngsters from sure areas who’re towards fracking, who they’re threatening with loss of life and labeling as guerrillas and who, like me, are having to flee their properties and nations as a result of with the specter of fracking comes the specter of loss of life.
“Protesting fracking in Colombia is like placing a bullet in your head, at any second they may kill you, identical to what nearly occurred to me,” says Morales. “It’s actually unhealthy there.”
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“And this is the reason there are lots of others who’ve additionally needed to flee. We’ve got two choices: flee Colombia or shut up,” says Morales.
“We are able to’t say something as a result of it’s additionally not a secure place to report something, as a result of the extra we are saying the sooner they may kill us. They’ll accuse us, disappear us or put us in jail.”
Regardless of her harrowing expertise, Morales says she’s going to proceed to combat fracking and maintain making an attempt to boost worldwide consciousness on the plight of her fellow land defenders.
“I need my residence to be in peace and that we will stay in peace, in order that the kids of Colombia can increase their voices with out them ever being extinguished,” she says.
“I need there to be no extra fracking in Colombia. And I need them to not kill us for being activists.”
Supply: Climate Change News