Counterworking Colombian Peace – The land conflict at ‘el Quimbo’ dam project at the Río Magdalena

Authors: Cornelia Helmcke*, NMBU
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Latin America
Keywords: Peace, Nature, Post-conflict, State, Capitalism, Colombia, Hydroelectricity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Studio 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Colombian government and the country’s biggest guerrilla group, Farc-Ep, signed the peace agreement at the end of 2016, paving the way to end the violence which has paralysed the country for decades. Nevertheless, agreeing on peace does not mean it is established within society. Disputes over land and resources continue to force people off their lands. This paper focuses on the struggle for territory at el Quimbo dam in Huila. The case demonstrates how a private investment dubbed ‘a project of national interest’ creates conflict in a stable and peaceful region. Starting operation in 2015, the project uprooted the rural communities dependent on the fertile land and the fisheries of the river Magdalena. It resulted in unemployment and insecurity in the region and led to widespread resistance. The movement against el Quimbo challenges the extractive ideology of the state and denounces the peace agreement as paz corporativa (corporate peace) – peace for investors, but against territory and people. Based on nine month field research (interviews and participatory observation) in the affected area and in the capital Neiva, this paper tells the story of the El Quimbo dam, its construction and the resistance to it. It analysis how the capitalist state uses peace to expands its control over territory and resources. This has radical impact on local production regimes and, in conclusion, on the human-nature relationships. I look into state theory to understand the apparent inconsistencies within the state apparatus, its link to civil society, territory, and lastly – peace.

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