Occidental's Oil Project Ignites More Violence  Against Peaceful Tribe In Colombia 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

U'WA DEFENSE WORKING GROUP
For Immediate Release: June 26, 2000
Contact: Shannon Wright 415/398-4404 or 415/596-7246 or Carwil James,
510/705-8981

Occidental's Oil Project Ignites More Violence Against Peaceful Tribe In Colombia 
Gore Family Continues To Profit From Occidental Stock Despite Abuses 

Moving quickly in the wake of US Senate approval of a military aid package, Colombian armed forces attacked two hundred non-violent U'wa Indians over the weekend. The U'wa have been blockading the road to a site where Occidental Petroleum plans to begin drilling for oil for months. The nonviolent blockades are the latest phase in a nine-year campaign by the U'wa to stop drilling on traditional lands which they hold sacred.

On Saturday, June 24 some 300 anti-riot police and soldiers made a surprise, early morning attack against 200 peaceful U'wa people blockading a road near the town of Cubara in north-eastern Colombia. The police and soldiers removed the U'wa through the use of tear gas and physical blows. 
U'wa spokespeople report that twenty-eight people were injured, with some requiring medical attention. One U'wa man received bullet wounds, according to the attending medical physician Dr. Quinones (a facsimile of the doctor's statement available upon request from RAN: 415/398-4404).

On Sunday afternoon, some 60 soldiers and police made another surprise sweep against a group of U'wa peacefully assembled in the town of Cubara. Several were physically attacked, accused of being "subversives" and 30 were detained. Now reports are emerging today that another 40 U'wa have been detained in this systematic effort to break the blockade and allow Occidental to drill on U'wa land. This use of force against peaceful civilians comes on the heels of last week's US senate approval of a $1.3 billion aid package for Colombia, much of which is directed at the police and military. The U.S. is the number one buyer of Colombia's oil.

"The truth on the ground in Colombia is that a US-backed police and military force is using violent tactics to serve a US company-Occidental Petroleum-against a peaceful community, all in the name of oil," said Carwil James from Project Underground, which has been working in support of the U'wa since 1997.

This is the third violent strike in recent months against the non-violent U'wa people in their effort to block Occidental's oil project on their traditional territory. The U'wa are adamantly opposed to the project and have repeatedly stated that they are willing to die to stop the project, which they see as a threat to the spiritual equilibrium of the world, the environment and their physical safety from Colombia's civil war.

Meanwhile, as detailed in today's Washington Times, Vice President Al Gore's family profits are up due to positive returns on his stock investments in Oxy valued at between $500,000 to $1 million. Despite repeated requests from environmental and human rights organizations, Gore has refused to divest his family from Occidental or to support the rights of the U'wa before his family's profits.

"Mr Gore cannot pretend to be any better than Bush when his hands have the blood of the U'wa on them, " said Shannon Wright, of the Rainforest Action Network. "So much for this environmental Vice-President - he would prefer to profit from an oil project in Colombia than to use his influence to protect the human rights and forest home of the U'wa."

The U'wa Defense Working Group is a coalition of human rights and environmental organization in the United States working with the U'wa. For more information on the U'wa people's campaign please see: 
www.amazonwatch.org
www.ran.org

 

URGENT ACTION ALERT! 

A Colombian court has issued an injunction prohibiting Occidental from further work on its oil well until an administrative court can make a permanent ruling on the legality of the drilling license. In issuing the injunction, the judge stated that the U'wa's "fundamental rights" may be violated if Oxy's project goes forward. If the appellate court overturns the injunction, the U'wa will face an increasingly grave situation.
The U'wa have suspended all negotiations with the government until the government is willing to discuss revoking
Oxy's drilling license. 
The U'wa are calling for increased international support, asking activists to contact Colombian President Pastrana and urge him to protect the U'wa's rights by permanently revoking Occidental's drilling license. 
Roberto Perez, President of the U'wa people, wants to increase the pressure on Oxy to cancel the project on U'wa ancestral territory.

Now is the time to show your support for the U'wa people by:
- Sending a fax to the Colombian Embassy TODAY!
- Attending the Occidental Shareholders Annual General Meeting (flyer on reverse) and taking a stand for the U'wa!

Addresses:

President Andres Pastrana, c/o Ambassador Luis Roberto Moreno, Embassy of Colombia, 2118 Leroy Place, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20008 USA, Phone (202) 387 8338, Fax: (202) 232-8643, (202) 387-0176 
Juan Mayr Ministro del Medio Ambiente, Tel:+57-1-3361166, +57-1-2886877, +57-1-2840363
Juan_Mayr_M@hotmail.com   or Jmayr@minamb.gov.co  
Madeleine K. Albright, State Department, 2201 C St. NW Washington, DC 20520, Fax: 202-261-8577 
Dr. Néstor Humberto Martínez Neira Ministro del Interior, Ministerio del Interior Carrera 8 No.8-09 Piso 2, Santa Fe de
Bogota, COLOMBIA, Fax: (011) 571 286 8025, 281 5884, 342 3201 
Luis Fernando Ramirez Ministro de la Defensa, Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, Avenida El Dorado con carrera 52
CAN, Santa Fe de Bogota, Tel-fax (571 ) 222 18 74, Email de la Secretaria General:
infprotocol@mindefensa.gov.co   
US EMBASSY IN BOGOTA- Carrera 45 # 22D-45, Bogotá, D.C. Colombia, (571) 315-2197 

Sample Letter:

Dear President Pastrana,
The injunction suspending Occidental Petroleum's project on U'wa territory is a welcome demonstration of the Colombian judiciary's independence and commitment to protecting human and cultural rights. Moreover, it is a positive step towards decreasing the conflict in the region. I urge you to demonstrate a similar commitment to fundamental rights by nurturing a participatory and peaceful decision making process, one which addresses and considers all possible outcomes to this issue, including the revocation of Occidental's license, and cancellation of the project. All options must be considered at the negotiating table. President Pastrana, I believe that this issue is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your stated commitment to improving the human rights performance of your army and national police and to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous people to shape development in their region. I respectfully urge you and your administration to address serious ongoing human rights violations and to ensure the individual and collective safety and rights of the U'wa.

In particular, I request that your administration:

1. Immediately remove its military presence from the U'wa territory.
2. Take special steps to ensure that any military troops in the area of the U'wa territory fully respect the rights of the U'wa community.
3. Ensure that the injunction handed down by the 11th Circuit Court of Bogota on March 30, 2000 in favor of the temporary preventative suspension of Occidental and Ecopetrol's project at Gibraltar 1 be implemented at the construction site itself.
4. Engage in an on-going dialogue and consultation process directly with the U'wa community to discuss the revocation of the project's environmental license, ultimate cancellation of the project, and alternatives to oil exploitation for economic, social, and cultural development of the region. 
5. Return to the U'wa community the Bella Vista and Santa Rita farms, to which the community holds lawful title.

I thank you for your immediate attention to this critical issue.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address
Telephone (optional)

 

 

 

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