U'Wa struggle

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri Nov 19 11:22:26 MST 1999

Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 22:57:07 -0800
From: "Patrick Reinsborough" <rags at ran.org>
To:  <rags at ran.org>

In this post :

1. Update - Solidarity Actions Needed!
2. communiqué from the U'wa Traditional Authorities
3. Press Release from U'wa Defense Working Group
4. Reuters article on U'wa occupation Nov 17


Greetings friends and supporters of the U'wa, I need say little to add to
the most recent U'wa communiqué for their words are far more powerful than
mine. They have called for supporters to join them in their occupation of
the drill site as well as to take action around the world to draw attention
to this situation.  As Occidental Petroleum, backed up by the Colombian
military prepares to move into the drill site all of us around the world
must stand in solidarity with them. Please take your solidarity to the
streets. Organize a vigil, demonstration or direct action at the nearest
Colombian consulate/embassy. Highlight America's role in financing the
Colombian military. Reprint and circulate the communiqué below.

Make your local press cover this issue by writing letters, articles and
organizing solidarity actions. Harrass Al Gore when he makes campaign
apperances about why he is accepting campaign contributions from
Occidental. Get local associations, groups, unions or faith groups to pass
a resolution in support of the U'wa.  Incorporate the U'wa issue into your
demonstrations against the WTO and corporate globalization on Nov 30 they
are an incredible example of resistance from the frontlines of the global
economy! Rainforest Action Network can provide hard copies of materials
(they can also be downloaded from our website at www.ran.org). Additional
information can be found at www.amazonwatch.org and www.moles.org. We are
completing research on Occidental's shareholders and expect to have some
additional financial targets that we can all put pressure on very soon. One
of the biggest investors in Occidental is Fidelity Investments. They have
outlets in financial districts in many major cities in the U.S, Canada,
Europe and Japan (usually ground floor, plenty of windows, high traffic
locations). Take a look around your local financial district and see if you
can find them. We will keep you posted on what we discover and potential
actions we could demand Fidelity take on behalf of the U'wa. Let us know
what you are planning in your area.

In the spirit of the U'wa resistance,
Patrick Reinsborough,
Grassroots Coordinator

Rainforest Action Network
221 Pine St Suite 500  San Francisco CA 94104
phone - 415-398-4404/1-800-989-RAIN    fax - 415-398-2732


Association of U'wa Traditional Authorities

November 17, 1999
Cubará, Colombia


Approximately 200 members of the U'wa indigenous tribe of northeastern
Colombia assembled in a permanent settlement on part of our ancestral lands
yesterday, November 16. This area, which has been colonized by farmers, is
the site where the multinational company Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) wants
to drill the oil well "Gibraltar 1," an action which threatens life and our
ancient culture.  With this permanent presence and with the support of the
local farmers of Sarare, we are claiming our ancestral and constitutional
rights to life and to our traditional territory. We demand that the
Colombian government and Oxy leave us in peace and that once and for all
they cancel the oil project in this area.

We U'wa people are willing to give our lives to defend Mother Earth from
this project which will annihilate our culture, destroy nature, and upset
the world's equilibrium. Caring for the Earth and the welfare of our
children and of future generations is not only the responsibility of the
U'wa people but of the entire national and international society.  We
reject the violence perpetrated by the armed actors in the region.  We also
urge indigenous peoples worldwide, national and international
non-governmental organizations, and the general public to work in
solidarity with us, rejecting this project planned by the Colombian
government and Oxy. We urgently request that you support us with your
physical presence in our territory. In addition, we ask people around the
world who value the Earth and indigenous peoples to speak out against the
multinational oil company Oxy through protests, letters and other actions
of solidarity.

Roberto Perez, President of Tribal Council
U'wa Traditional Authorities



November 17, 1999
For immediate release

Mark Westlund -- 415-398-4404
Atossa Soltani -- 310-456-1340
David Rothschild -- 202-785-3334
U'wa office in Colombia +5778-838-037
for addition contact numbers in Colombia call above listed numbers



Bogota, Colombia -- 200 U'wa Indians, including women, children and tribal
elders marched on the site of Occidental Petroleum's planned oil well
Gibraltar 1, establishing a permanent settlement to block the drilling
slated to begin in the coming weeks. Hundreds of additional U'wa are
expected to continue arriving to the settlement in upcoming days. Tribal
leaders declared that this permanent settlement is a necessary to block the
drilling after legal battles and direct appeals to the company and
government have failed to date. Oxy's entire oil block falls within the
U'wa's ancestral territory. The U'wa, a traditional tribe of some 5,000
people living in the cloudforests of northeastern Colombia have repeatedly
declared their absolute opposition to Oxy's oil project. The U'wa cannot
allow drilling on their ancestral lands as they believe that oil is the
blood of the Earth.

The oil project is widely expected to escalate conflicts in the region
among the armed factions, resulting in violence against the U'wa, as seen
in other oil areas of Colombia. Despite this, in September the Colombian
Minister of the Environment approve a drilling license for the first
exploratory well. "We are willing to have the government bomb us, but we
will not abandon these ancestral lands because we must stop Oxy from
drilling for oil, which is the blood of our Mother Earth," U'wa
international spokesperon Berito Kuwaru'wa, declared from the U'wa
settlement at Gibraltar. Today, in the Colombian capital of Bogota, 25 U'wa
representatives including Tribal Council president Roberto Perez marched on
the Ministry of the Environment, calling for Colombian and international
support at this critical moment in their campaign. In the communiqué that
follows, the U'wa make an urgent appeal to their supporters to join them in
solidarity at the settlement during this non-violent stand to defend their
culture, land and lives.

For more information on the U'wa and their campaign please see:
www.ran.org, www.amazonwatch.org, www.moles.org

The U'wa Defense Working Group includes:
Amazon Watch, Action Resource Center, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund,
EarthWays Foundation, International Law Project for Human Environmental &
Economic Defense, Project Underground, Rainforest Action Network, Sol
Communications, U'wa Defense Project

#4 REUTERS article

note - the article suggests that there may be as may as 2.5 billion barrels
of oil underneath U'wa land. As Project Underground (authors of the
definitive "Blood of our Mother" report on the U'wa situation) have pointed
out this number represents a gross inflation of the original 1.5 billion
barrels that was estimated to be in the Samore block.

By Karl Penhaul BOGOTA, Nov 17 (Reuters) -

Militant Colombian Indians have seized an area they claim as ancestral
homelands to prevent a U.S. multinational from drilling for oil and pledged
Wednesday to "defend Mother Earth to the death". Some 200 U'wa Indians
occupied late Tuesday the Gibraltar-1 test site in the Samore block in
northeast Colombia.

The 500,000 acre (209,000 hectare) exploration area is tipped to harbor up
to 2.5 billion barrels of crude and could ensure the country's energy needs
well into the next century. Occidental Petroleum Corp <OXY.N> won approval
in late September to begin drilling for crude there after a seven-year
legal wrangle over indigenous land rights blocked work.

But in a strongly-worded communique issued Wednesday, Roberto Perez, head
of the 5,000-strong U'wa community, called for Occidental and the
government to shelve the plan for good. "We demand that the government and
Occidental leave us in peace and cancel the project for oil drilling in
this zone," Perez said.

"The U'wa people are committed to give their lives to defend Mother Earth
from this project which would destroy our culture, nature and world
balance," he added. Perez did not spell out what measures the U'wa were
prepared to take but the community has, in the past, threatened to commit
mass suicide if the oil industry encroached on what it considered ancestral

Occidental's planned Gibraltar-1 test site lies just outside the
government-recognized Indian reservation but inside an area that the U'wa
claim as traditional tribal homelands. In August, the government enlarged
the U'was' official reservation almost fivefold to 543,000 acres (220,000
hectares). But the U'was, whose semi-nomadic ancestors roamed across the
cloud forests and plains of at least three provinces in northeast and
central Colombia, demand rights to a much larger territory.

Shannon Wright, spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network,
said Wednesday that more U'wa Indians could pour into the area around
Gibraltar-1. International activists, grouped under the banner of the
California-based U'wa Defense Working group, are also planning to join the

Earlier this year, three American indigenous activists were brutally
murdered by leftist rebels as they worked with the U'was to help prevent
Occidental encroaching on Indian lands. "The U'wa are at a critical
juncture. Everything is calm right now but given that oil areas are the
center of violent conflict there is significant concern that the U'wa could
be caught in the crossfire (as a result of their protest)," Shannon told

An Occidental spokesman said the company was still evaluating the impact of
the U'wa land occupation and declined to speculate on the possible
consequences of the protest. He said the U.S. multinational, which operates
the 130,000 barrel-per-day Cano Limon field in northeast Arauca province,
planned to sink the first test drill in Samore "sometime next year". The
first exploration well is expected to be some 14,000 feet deep and cost
some $30 million.

((--Bogota newsroom (571) 634 4090, bogota.newsroom at reuters.com))

Louis Proyect

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