Bogotá, June 11, 2018

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HIDROITUANGO DAM CRISIS: WE DEMAND TRANSPARENT INFORMATION THAT PRIVILEGES THE PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT, FROM THE GOVERNMENT, EPM, AND THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA

In this open letter we want to draw attention to the way in which the Colombian government, the mainstream media, and EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín), the company developing the Ituango Hydroelectric Power Project on the Lower Cauca river, have been informing on the ongoing situation at the dam.

We are activists, artists, scholars, philosophers, psychologists, lawyers, journalists, people from all walks of life, much less interested in tags or titles than in the defense of economic, social, cultural and environmental human rights. Our occupations and activism make us particularly aware of the way language and images are used by the mainstream media and the government to control information. We want to draw attention to a politics of representation that normalizes situations of injustice and oppression and places the economic interests of investors above those of the people affected by the project.

Rising river waters and infrastructure failure since the end of April have been threatening the stability of the dam wall, and teams of builders and engineers have been called to work extra time to avert a major disaster. More than twenty-five thousand people from the riverside communities have been forced to abandon their homes and their means of subsistence, a large number of which are being kept in make-shift facilities where they are not being able to meet their most basic needs. Thousands more are at risk if the dam walls break.

When reporting and informing on the crisis of the dam, the mass media are insistently drawing attention to the engineering works and we consider this is a way of distracting from the social and environmental impacts of the project. The priorities set by the government, the mainstream media, and EPM are even more disturbing if we take into account the historical context of the project. The region where the dam is being built has been the site of more than 62 massacres in the last 30 years, with more than 3500 dead. These massacres facilitated the displacement of communities to make place for the project. Since the crisis started, several members of the Rios Vivos Movement --a social organization of riverside inhabitants opposing the construction of the dam-- have been assassinated. We consider that the continued misrepresentation of the situation as politically and socially “neutral” comes as an abuse of power, and is unacceptable.

During the planning and building stages, the strong opposition to the project from the riverside communities (who time and again warned that the soil was not stable enough to hold the wall) was countered with a rhetoric that stressed the wonders of progress and development as embodied in the technical aspects of the Ituango Hydroelectric Power Project, so as to render it attractive in spite of the serious consequences it would have on the biodiversity of the region and the livelihoods of the people. At present, as the crisis unfolds and the whole project is at risk, visual and rhetorical devices are deployed to draw attention to the engineering aspects and the technical solutions instead of calling for solidarity with the 120 thousand people at risk if the dam collapses (a likely outcome).

No more half-truths and deception. The cracked dam wall is not the main aspect of the tragedy, the economic aspects of this crisis are not more important than the social and environmental ones.

The public has the right to have full and truthful information, including testimonies and images delivered by the local population. Their knowledge is a key element to understand and assess what is happening and they need all our support. This shift of emphasis is imperative, not only from an ethical point of view, but to ensure that the lives of the communities are not exposed to greater risks.

We have been following the events and some of us have been accompanying the affected communities in their struggles. We demand from the Colombian government protection for the most vulnerable groups and transparency regarding the information on the engineering works at the Ituango Dam. More concretely, we demand a contingency plan for the emergency:

- Right now, more than fourteen thousand people have been accommodated in hostels and community centers, while some are sleeping rough. Aid has been very slow to reach the affected people and there is not enough of it to meet basic needs. We demand that those who have been evacuated from their homes be provided with adequate food and sanitary facilities. EPM is under the obligation to look after the people whose lives it has put at risk.

- EPM and the Colombian government as much as the local authorities have not been clear about the severity of the emergency. This lack of clarity has led many of those evacuated to return to their homes, risking their own lives. We demand from the Colombian government a communication in which the local communities and the general public are accurately informed about the dangers. In order to ensure transparency, we demand the participation of local communities in the Puesto de Mando Unificado (the Operations Center set up to respond to the emergency), a report by the Colombian Association of Engineers on the structural condition of the dam, and international monitoring to clarify any contradictions and disparities to be found in the reports issued by the aforementioned Association, because so far we can only conclude that they have not been telling the whole truth about the situation.

- We demand from the mainstream media that they inform on the humanitarian crisis and the ecocide that are unfolding due to institutional neglect and improvisation. The lives of many people are at stake, as this is threatening the lives and livelihoods of the inhabitants of several municipalities, along the departments of Antioquia, Sucre, Córdoba and Bolívar and affecting thousands of acres of diverse ecosystems. The Colombian public must be accurately informed about the social and environmental dimension of the problem. The voices of those affected must be heard, including those of the displaced populations and of the workers for the dam project, whose lives are directly at risk if the situation escalates.

- We demand that, once the international monitoring of the information has been carried out, the Council of State verifies again the documentation that supported the viability of the Project. We demand as well that the corpses of the victims of the armed conflict that are believed to be in the inundation areas be searched and exhumed.

Based on our experience and knowledge, we consider that the present crisis requires an adequate use of language and that things must be called by their name. Instead of calling it a “natural disaster”, we should be calling it an environmental crime and ecocide. Instead of discussing an “engineering issue”, we should be talking about a humanitarian crisis. Instead of referring to “natural resources”, we should be considering them as common goods.

The information provided by mainstream media such as Caracol, RCN, Semana, El Tiempo should be actively criticized and we call the public to seek information in alternative media such as Alianza de Medios Alternativos, Agencia Prensa Rural, Señales de Humo, Contagio Radio, Colectivo de Comunicaciones de Valdivia, Colectivo de Comunicaciones de Tarazá, Colombia Informa, TelePasto, Al Jazeera, Censat Agua Viva, Movimiento Ríos Vivos Colombia, Ríos Vivos Antioquia. Please join us by signing this open letter.


Abraham Cruzvillegas - Artista - Ciudad de México
Adriana García Galán - Artista y Profesora - Bogotá
Adriana Martinez Villalba - Editora - Bogotá
Adriana Puech- Ambientalista - Bogotá
Adriana Salazar - Artista - Ciudad de México Adriana Serrano - Artista - Directora de Arte Cinematográfico - Los Angeles, California
Agustín Pérez Rubio - Curador - Buenos Aires / Madrid
Alberto Baraya - Artista Plástico - Bogotá
Alejandra Balcazar - periodista y ambientalista, Bogotá
Alejandra Carrillo Soubic - Abogada - Ciudad de México
Alejandra Gómez Lozano- comunicadora - Bogotá
Alejandro Martín Maldonado - Curador, Museo La Tertulia - Cali
Alejandro Ramirez - Cineasta y artista - Amsterdam
Alejandro Villegas - artista - Bogotá
Alex Freese - Diseñador industrial - Bogotá
Alexander Correa Vélez - Gestor cultural - Medellín
Alia Farid - Artista - Kuwait
Alicia Barney Caldas - Artista - Bogotá
Alonso Gil - Artista - Sevilla
Álvaro Velasco Álvarez- Fundaminga - Bogotá
Ana Gómez López - Artista, investigadora independiente - Amsterdam
Ana Maria Bresciani - Curadora - Oslo
Ana María Gutiérrez - Bogotá
Ana María Millán - Artista - Berlín
Ana María Montenegro Jaramillo - Artista visual y docente - Bogotá
Ana María Tafur - diseñadora - Lima
Andrea Echeverri - Escritora, investigadora y emprendedora - Bogotá
Andrés Felipe Carvajal - Comunicador social - Bogotá
Andrés Felipe Uribe - Artista visual - Bogotá
Andrés García La Rota - Artista - Bogotá
Andrés Sandoval Alba - Berlín
Andrés Villaveces - Matemático - Bogotá
Antonio Briceño - Artista - Barcelona
Antonio Morales Riveira - Periodista - Bogotá
Antonio Yemail - Arquitecto -Bogotá
Arturo Escobar - Antropólogo y ambientalista - Profesor de antropología- Universidad de Carolina del Norte - Chapel Hill
Beatriz López - Galerista - Directora Artística Instituto de Visión - Bogotá
Bárbara Santos - Artista - Cuenco de Cera - Bogotá
Camila Higuera - Bogotá
Camila Segura - Periodista - Bogotá
Camilo Díaz Moreno - Ingeniero mecánico
Camilo Guio - Abogado ambientalista - Bogotá
Camilo Sanabria - Compositor - Bogotá
Candice Hopkins - Curadora independiente - Toronto
Carla Acevedo Yates - Curadora Asociada - Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum - Michigan
Carlos E. Betancourt - Curador y museólogo - Bogotá
Carlos Enrique Lozano - Dramaturgo - Bogotá
Carlos Franklin - Artista - París
Carlos Gómez - Ecólogo acústico - Barcelona
Carlos Motta - Artista y Profesor - Nueva York
Carlos Osuna - Cineasta - Bogotá
Carolina Barrera - Productora de Cine - Bogotá
Carolina Botero Cabrera - Abogada - Bogotá
Carolina Caycedo - Artista Visual - Los Angeles, California
Carolina Díaz - artista - Bogotá
Carolina Ponce de León - Curadora de Arte - Bogotá
Carolyn Castaño - Artista - Los Angeles, California - Cali, Colombia
Catalina Lozano - Curadora - Ciudad de México
Catalina López - Fundación Promedio - Bogotá
Cecilia Fajardo Hill - Curadora - Baja California
Cecilia Vicuña - Artista - Chile
Christiaan Job Nieman, Diseñador - Bogotá
Christian Vásquez Infante - Profesor
Clare Weiskopf - Directora de Cine, Casatarántula - Bogotá
Claudia Díaz, Crítica de arte - Bogotá
Claudia Salamanca - Profesora Asistente Nuevos Medios - Arkansas State University
Clemencia Echeverri - Artista - Bogotá
Comunicación de los Pueblos Indígenas - CLACPI
Corazón del Sol - Artista - Los Angeles
Cristina Consuegra - antropóloga e investigadora - Bogotá
Cristina Lleras - Curadora y Museóloga - Bogotá
Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo - Artista y Profesora - The New School of New York
César López, Músico - Bogotá
Damian Ponce - Músico - Nueva York
Daniel Alfonso León - Historiador y Fotógrafo - Bucaramanga
Daniel Bejarano, Colectivo Ojo al Sancocho - Bogotá
Daniela Lieja Quintanar - Curadora LACE Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Dario Sandoya - Artista y sociólogo - Bogotá
David Hernández Palmar - Wayuu - Miembro de Latinoamericana de Cine
Diana Figueroa - Titiritero - Colectivo Libre Colibrí - Popayán
Diana Wiesner - Ecologista urbana - Bogotá
Diana X. Bell- Coordinadora - Displacement Research + Action Network (DRAN)- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Diego Miguel Garcés - Comunicador social - divulgación científica - Cali
Edgardo Lander - Sociólogo - Caracas
Eduardo Abaroa - Artista - Ciudad de México
Elena Álvarez-Buylla - Bióloga molecular, UNAM Premio Nal de Ciencias y Artes- México
Elkin Calderón - Artista - Bogotá
Emilio Tarazona - Investigador en arte contemporáneo-Bogotá
Erik Arellana Bautista - Poeta y Periodista - Bogotá
Erika Florez - Artista - Curadora - Cali
Erna von der Walde - Ensayista - Crítica literaria y cultural - Reino Unido
Eroca Nicols, aka Lady Janitor - Los Angeles, Toronto
Facundo Hidalgo - Artista - Bogotá
Federico Bobbio - Gastrónomo y ambientalista, Bogotá - Torino
Federico Guzmán - Artista - Sevilla
Felipe Guerrero -cineasta - Buenos Aires
Felipe Monroy - cineasta - Ginebra, Suiza
Felipe Mujica - Artista Visual - Chile, NY
Fernando Arias -Artista - Cofundador Más Arte Más Acción - Chocó
Fernando Palma - Artista - Ciudad de México
Fernando Pertuz - Artista - Bogotá
Francisco Toquica - Artista - Bogotá
Gala Porras Kim - Artista - Los Angeles
Gean Moreno - Curador de Programas - Institute of Contemporary Art - Miami
Gerrit Stollbrock - docente, investigador y documentalistas - Bogotá
Gloria Morales Osorio - Docente
Grupo Musical Aterciopelados (Andrea Echeverri, Hector Buitrago) - Bogotá
Gustavo Chirolla - Filósofo y docente - Bogotá
Hugo Herrera Tobon - Diseñador y curador - Amsterdam
Irene Aristizabal - Jefe de Exposiciones - Nottingham Contemporary, Reino Unido
Jaime Cerón - Curador y crítico de arte - Bogotá
Jaime Serrano - Bogotá
Jaime Tenorio - politólogo y asesor en cultura y medios audiovisuales - Bogotá
Javier Briones - Documentalista - Guatemala
Javier Osuna - Periodista - Fahrenheit 451 - Bogotá
Jennifer Teets - Curadora y escritora- París
Jesús (Muipu) León - Docente e investigador etnia tatuyo - río Pirá Paraná
Joe Villablanca - Artista Visual - Galería Chilena
Jonathan Colin - Gestor Cultural - Cofundador Más Arte Más Acción - Chocó
Jorge Barco- Curador de proyectos especiales - Museo de Arte Moderno Medellín
Jorge Caballero --Cineasta, Barcelona
Jorge Caycedo - Titiritero - Colectivo Libre Colibrí - Popayán
Jorge Enrique Rincón - Artista Urbano - Bogotá
Jorge Parada - Artista- Bogotá
Jorge Satorre - Artista visual - Ciudad de México
José Luis Bongore - Artista - Bogotá
José Roca - Curador Flora Ars+Natura - Bogotá
José ‘Chemi’ Rosado Seijo - Artista y Activista - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Juan Carlos Preciado B - Bogotá
Juan Cortés - Artista - Bogotá
Juan Cárdenas - Escritor - Bogotá
Juan David Correa - Editor y escritor - Bogotá
Juan David Giraldo - Editor y Artista - Bogotá
Juan Devis - Director Creativo - KCET Link - Los Angeles, California
Juan Fernando Mejía - Filósofo y docente - Bogotá
Juan Gabriel Soler- Fotógrafo y documentalista - Bogotá
Juan Luis Toboso - Curador y docente - Oporto, Portugal
Juan Pablo Fajardo- Artista y editor -Amsterdam
Juan Pablo Pacheco - Artista - Bogotá
Juana Suárez - Docente- Nueva York / Bogotá
Julia Buenaventura - Historiadora y Crítica de Arte - América Latina
Juliana Arango - Producción audiovisual - Madrid
Julio Gaitán - Abogado - Bogotá
Kobe Matthys - Artista - Bruselas
Laura Cadena - pedagogía de cine comunitario - Bogotá
Laura Cahnspeyer- Naturalista- Bogotá
Laura Huertas Millán - Cineasta y artista plástica- París
Liliana Andrade - Arquitecta y museógrafa - Bogotá
Liliana Angulo - Artista Visual - Bogotá
Liliana Guzmán - Escritora -Bogotá
Liliana Sanchez - Artista - Bogotá
Lina Paola Negrete - Psicóloga - Bogotá
Lore Gablier- Curadora- Paris / Amsterdam
Lorenzo Sandoval - Artista y curador - Berlín
Luca Carrubba- Arsgames -Barcelona
Lucenith Castillo Ramos - Psicóloga social - Teatro Esquina Latina, Cali
Lucho Correa - Diseñador - Bogotá
Luciana Cadahia - filósofa y profesora de la Universidad Javeriana - Bogotá
Luis Agosto Leduc - Artista y Gestor Cultural - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Luisa Ungar - Artista - Bogotá
M Belén Sáez De Ibarra - Curadora - Bogotá
Macarena Gómez-Barris - Decana y Profesora - Pratt Institute Nueva York
Manuel Quintero - Artista, Bogotá
Manuel Romero - Artista - Bogotá
Manuela Moscoso - Curadora - Ciudad de México
Manuela Ochoa - Museo Nacional de la Memoria - Bogotá
Marcela Campos - Psicóloga Clínica - Bonn, Alemania
Margarita Jimeno - Cineasta - New York
Maria Catalina Sandoval, Documentalista - Bogotá
Maria Cristina López - Productora y directora audiovisual independiente - Bogotá
Mariam Valencia -gestión y producción cultural - Madrid
Mariana Gómez - Antropóloga y ambientalista
Mariana Munguía - Directora Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo - Ciudad de México
Mariana Murcia - Artista - Bogotá
Mariangela Mendez Prencke - Curadora, Röda Sten Konsthall - Gotemburgo
Marina Reyes Franco - Curadora - San Juan, Puerto Rico
María Buenaventura - Artista y Profesora - Bogotá
María Clara Van der Hammen - Antropóloga - Bogotá
María Evelia Marmolejo - Artista - Nueva York
María Inés Rodríguez - Curadora - Francia
María Tabares - Poeta - Bogotá.
María Valencia, arquitecta-urbanista, Bogotá
María Wills - Curadora - Bogotá
Matilsha Marxuach - Diseñadora - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Mauricio Díaz Calderón - Periodista - Fahrenheit 451- Bogotá
Maya Juracán - Curadora e Historiadora del Arte - Guatemala
Melissa Paerez C - Gestora cultural y directora de La Peluquería - Bogotá
Michael Taussig - Nueva York
Michel Pineda - Mánager de pastos, y animales Proyecto Deveras - Bogotá
Michy Marxuach - Curadora y Gestora Cultural - Fundadora BetaLocal- Puerto Rico
Miguel Ángel Rojas - Artista visual - Bogotá
Milena Bonilla - Artista visual y docente - Amsterdam
Mónica Zamudio Palacios, artista, Bogotá
Natalia Domínguez - Compositor - Amsterdam / Viena
Natalia Sorzano - artista y música - Bogotá y Rotterdam
Nelson Mamian - Bogotá
Nelson Ortiz- Biólogo - bodhisatva - ambientalista - Bogotá
Nicolas van Hemelryck - Productor de cine - Casatarántula - Bogotá
Nicolás Castaño - Biólogo - Bogotá
Nobara Hayakawa - Artista - Bogotá
Nohemí Pérez - Artista - Bogotá - Catatumbo
Octavio Zaya - Curador y editor - Director Revista Atlántica, Boston / NY
Omar Rincón - Profesor asociado Universidad de los Andes
Oscar Muñoz - Artista - Cali
Pablo Castillo -Arquitecto - Bogotá
Paula Bohórquez - Productora FDC, Proimágenes - Bogotá
Pilar Gutiérrez - Fotógrafa y diseñadora - Cataluña
Pilar Saenz- Física - Bogotá
Pilar Tompkins Rivas - Director VIncent Price Museum - Los Angeles, California
Powerpaola - Artista - Bogotá
Raimond Puiqui Chaves - Artista y Docente - Lima
Ramiro Chaves - Artista - México
Ricardo Gall - Músico - New York
Ricardo de la Pava - Biólogo, Bogotá
Richard Tamayo Nieto- Asesor en comunicación y docente -Bogotá
Rocío Londoño - Historiadora - Bogotá
Rodrigo Negrete Montes - Bogotá
Rodrigo Orrantia, curador y editor - Londres
Rolf Abderhalden - Artista - Bogotá
Rory O’Bryen - Estudios Culturales Latinoamericanos - Universidad de Cambridge
Rosa Elena Jacanamijoy- Sabedora Inga - Sibundoy
Rosario López - Escultora - Bogotá
Rose Mary Castro - Psicóloga - Valencia, España
Rosy Mary Castro, psicóloa, Valencia - España
Sally Mizrachi - Gestora cultural - Cali
Samuel Córdoba - director Fundación Promedio - Bogotá
Sandra Botero Cabrera - Profesora Universidad del Rosario - Bogotá
Sandra Quintero - abogada - Bogotá
Sandra de la Loza - Artista - Los Angeles, California
Santiago Aguirre- Fotógrafo y librero- Bogotá
Santiago Caicedo - Director de Cine - Bogotá
Santiago Reyes Villaveces - Artista - Bogotá
Santiago Trujillo - Bogotá
Sara Cohen - Diseñadora - Bogotá
Sergio Bartelsman - fotógrafo - Lisboa / Cali
Sergio Gama - Filósofo - Fahrenheit 451 - Bogotá
Sergio Gaviria- Geólogo- Bogotá
Silvia Federici - Historiadora y activista feminista - Nueva York
Silvie Ojeda - Cofundadora Radio Mixticius - Realizadora Documental - DDHH - Bogotá
Simón Hernández - Director y Productor de Cine - Bogotá
Sofía Londoño - Artista - Los Angeles, California
Stav Yeini - Artista visual - Bruselas
Stephanie Noach - investigadora y curadora- Ámsterdam
Stephen Hugh-jones - antropólogo - Wales UK
Susana Carrié - Fotógrafa, diseñadora y artista visual - Bogotá
Suwon Lee - Artista Visual - Venezuela, Seoul
Tania Arboleda -Castrillón- Comunicadora Social - Periodista, Investigadora Independiente en procesos de Apropiación Social de la Ciencia - Bogotá
Tania Bruguera - Artista - Activista - Cuba
Tania Candiani - Artista - México
Tatiana Roa Avendaño - Censat Agua Viva - Cedla UvA Amsterdam
Teresa Margolles - Artista - México
Tomás Cárdenas - Productor Audiovisual - Bogotá
Tomás Reyes - Artista, cocinero y protector de vida - Paris - Bogotá
Urian Sarmiento- Músico Sonidos Enraizados y Curupira - Bogotá
Valeria Parra Gregory - Politóloga
Víctor Albarracín - Artista y Curador - Cali
Wilson Díaz - Artista - Berlin

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