Hostages Freed Amid Deadly Energy Company Protests in Colombia
Eighty-eight officers and employees have been released after violence broke out against the oil company Emerald Energy.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced that his ministers successfully negotiated the release of 88 hostages taken during a deadly protest against the oil company Emerald Energy.
“Thanks to the efforts of the ministers of Defense and the Interior, all police members and oil officials retained in San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá, have been released,” Petro wrote on 3 March.
In a video released to the media, Petro also appealed to the protesters, many of whom hail from Indigenous and rural communities, promising a “dialogue” with them “about their needs, their complaints, their claims.”
“This a government for dialogue, a government that belongs to them,” Petro said in the video.
A total of 88 people had been held captive as part of the protests, which demanded that Emerald Energy provide infrastructure investments and compensation for environmental damage to the surrounding community.
Nine of the initial hostages were oil company employees. The other 79 were police officers.
In addition, two people were killed in the demonstrations: a civilian struck by gunfire and a police officer identified as 39-year-old Ricardo Arley Monroy.
The protests, which began on 2 March, shut down access to an oil field, and video appeared to show demonstrators setting fire to company property.
Protesters have called on Emerald Energy to repave roads and improve facilities like schools in the largely rural area surrounding the oil fields.
A spokesperson for the communities involved in the protest told Al Jazeera earlier on Friday that an estimated 4,000 people, from farming and Indigenous communities, had taken part in the protests.
The spokesperson also denied reports that armed groups had infiltrated the demonstrations, calling the rumours an attempt to delegitimise the protesters’ demands.