Miguel Pabón, a community leader and ardent defender of the Sogamoso River has gone missing in the region of Santander, Colombia. Colleagues from the Colombian Movement in Defense of Land and People Affected by Dams and friends are calling for support from Colombian authorities to find Pabón and ensure that he returns home safely.
Miguel Pabón is a 36-year old father of two. He is a dedicated and distinguished environmentalist, and tireless defender of the Sogamoso River and of the communities of fishermen and farmers that depend on it. He has lived in the Asentamiento El Peaje (Toll Area Settlement) of the Betulia town, near the construction works of the Hidrosogamoso Dam, since 2007. This is where he began his fight alongside the community for housing rights of those displaced by the Hidrosogamoso Dam in the region of Magdalena Medio. He has continued to speak out against the social, cultural and environmental impacts of the dam, as well as the violation of the rights of communities by ISAGEN, the company responsible for the project.
In 2008, along with other regional leaders, he helped form the Social Movement for the Defense of the Sogamoso River, a movement created in response to conflicts over construction of the Hidrosogamoso Dam. Pabón participated in a protest at the dam site which took place March 14 -16, 2011, as part of the International Day of Action for Rivers. The community stopped work on the dam for three days. This action led ISAGEN to agree to sit down with the affected communities, and together they created a 17 point document, which still awaits a desicion by the community as a whole.
Miguel Pabón was last seen on the evening of Wednesday October 31. Since then members of the community, farmers and fisherman from all over the region who know Miguel have been searching for him including in the municipalities of Saban de Torres, San Vicente, Betuila and Barrancabermeja.
Unfortunately this is not the first time that tragedy has struck community members and leaders who fight to defend the rights of communities in the region. In 2012, according to the Comprehensive Peace Observatory, 11 people have dissapeared, 6 of whom have been discovered dead. Since 2009, several community leaders have been killed in the Sogamoso River area; these crimes have been comitted with impunity and without consequences to the perpetrators.
After nine days with no word from Miguel Pabón, the Colombian Movement in Defense of Land and People Affected by Dams, along with Friends of the Earth Colombia have issued an urgent action, calling for authorities to speed up their investigation and take strategic measures to discover the whereabouts of Miguel Pabón.