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Artisanal miners’ protests in Colombia hacked by looters

Blockade in Colombia’s Antioquia department. (Image by Antioquia’s Governor Aníbal Gaviria Correa, Twitter.)

A series of protest actions led by small-scale miners in Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia department since September 21 turned violent by the end of the week as people not linked to the protests, used the blockades as an excuse to ransack 30 cargo vehicles carrying food and other consumer products. 

According to local media, the first protest took place between the towns of Cáceres and Caucasia, where some 200 miners were demanding to meet with local and regional authorities. They wanted to negotiate an agreement that allowed them to work without being harassed by the police.

The artisanal miners say authorities tend to persecute them and destroy the machinery they use to extract gold from nearby deposits.

The ongoing blockades, however, have been hacked by third parties who not only have looted cargo trucks passing by, but have also caused damages to the vehicles and, in some cases, hurt the drivers.

The Freight Forwarders Association also told local media that economic losses caused by these incidents add up to over $20 million, as out of the 350,000 tons of products transported by the intercepted trucks, 2,000 tons of perishable and 1,000 tons of non-perishable products were lost. 

Following the looting, the association that gathers artisanal miners in Cáceres issued a statement condemning the violence and distancing themselves from the riotous actions.