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Caño Limón oilfield in Arauquita, Arauca, Colombia

Caño Limón has attracted armed violence ever since it was established. Extrajudicial killings of environmental defenders are commonplace, such as that of Maria Del Carmen Moreno Páez.


The Caño Limón oilfield was first opened in 1983, backed by a $92 million investment from the United States government and military, and is owned and operated by Ecopetrol and Occidental de Colombia, a subsidiary of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY) [9]. The oilfield is sited on the ancestral lands of the indigenous Uwa and Sikuaní peoples, who have outspokenly denounced the oil companies running the project as colonizers driving the people off their land without fair compensation and without accepting ¨the justice of time and of our gods¨ [11][4]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Caño Limón oilfield in Arauquita, Arauca, Colombia
State or province:Arauca
Location of conflict:Caño Rico
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Caño-Limón oil field produces 39% of Arauca´s gross domèstic product, and has been central to the regional economy since the 80s and 90s [6]. The project encompasses over 264 wells currently in operation, yielding 98,000 barrels daily. Each barrel is enough to produce 21 gallons of gasoline, 4 of kerosene, 2 of asphalt, 1 of petrochemical derivatives, lubricants, fuel oil and motor fuel [11]. The 780 kilometer (485 mile) Caño-Limón oil pipeline connects the oil field with Colombia’s main port for oil exports in Coveñas [4]. The Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline can deliver 220,000 barrels per day, making it the country’s second-largest pipeline by capacity [10].

Project area:3,570
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1983
Company names or state enterprises:Ecopetrol from Colombia
Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY) from United States of America
Occidental de Colombia - OXY from Colombia
Relevant government actors:National Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment, National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP), XVIII Brigade of Colombia’s Army, Quirón Task Force, Attorney General’s Office, Minister of the Interior
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Federation of Communal Action of Arauca, Caño Rico Community Action Board (JAC), Pacifista, Human Rights Watch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
On April 27, 2018, Maria Del Carmen Moreno Páez, the president of the Junta de Acción Comunal (Community Action Board) (JAC) of the Caño Rico village in Arauquita, was kidnapped on her way to work at her farm [1]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There continues to be impunity for not only extrajudicial killings of environmental defenders, but also for the oil companies who continue to operate and pay prosecutors for their own benefit
Sources & Materials

[1] HRD Memorial. Maria Del Carmen Moreno Páez (2018)
[click to view]

[2] Pacifista. María del Carmen Moreno: la lideresa asesinada que se oponía a la expansión petrolera (Sepulveda 2018)
[click to view]

[3] El Espectador. 30 años de petróleo en Arauca (Celis 2015)
[click to view]

[4] Wikipedia. Caño Limón (last accessed 17.11.2021)
[click to view]

[5] El Paz en el Terreno. MARÍA DEL CARMEN, MORENO PÁEZ (2018)
[click to view]

[6] Human Rights Watch. “The Guerrillas Are the Police” (2020)
[click to view]

[7] Colombia Informa. Eighth day of pipeline blockade against multinational oil corporations (2013)
[click to view]

[8] Euronews. Colombia's Cano Limon pipeline bombed for 11th time in 2019 (2019)
[click to view]

[9] Finance Colombia. Attacks Disrupt Major Caño Limon-Coveñas Oil Pipeline in Eastern Colombia (Wade 2017)
[click to view]

[10] Ursa Space. Can Colombia Say Goodbye To Crude Pipeline Bombings? (2018)
[click to view]

[11] Venezuela Analysis. Caño Limón: From an Oil Field to a Border Military Base (Saavedra 2004)
[click to view]

[12] RCN Radio. Hallan los cuerpos de los supuestos asesinos de la líder social de Arauca (2018)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update19/11/2021
Conflict ID:5716
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