U'WA DEFENSE WORKING GROUP
For Immediate Release: June 26, 2000
Contact: Shannon Wright 415/398-4404 or 415/596-7246 or Carwil James,
Occidental's Oil Project Ignites More Violence Against Peaceful Tribe In Colombia
Gore Family Continues To Profit From Occidental Stock
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
"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:
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
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!
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
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:
US EMBASSY IN BOGOTA- Carrera 45 # 22D-45, Bogotá, D.C. Colombia, (571) 315-2197
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.