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Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 22:06:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.vip.vi>
Subject: Colombia Indians to fight on against oil firm
Article: 73814
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.8561.19990827121542@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Colombia Indians to fight on against oil firm

Reuters, 26 August 1999

BOGOTA - Colombia's U'wa Indians said they would continue their long-running battle to prevent Occidental Petroleum Corp. from drilling for oil in a region they see as ancestral homelands.

Under Colombia's Constitution, the U.S.-based multinational will not be allowed to explore in about 50 percent of the block that overlaps with the 543,000-acre (220,000-hectare) U'wa reservation that the government formally approved last week.

But the U'was also said they would resist all Occidental's plans in a much wider area that does not fall within the reserve, but which they still consider ancestral homelands.

The U'was' position is not to allow any oil exploration or production (on its ancestral lands) either inside or outside the territory that has been legally recognised as ours, said a statement issued by the U'was.

The U'was' decision to keep fighting oil exploration in parts of central Boyaca, northern Santander and Norte de Santander and northeastern Arauca provinces seems likely to cause renewed frustration for Occidental. In 1992, Occidental was first granted exploration rights to the Samore Block, which it believes could harbour potential reserves of between 1.5 billion and 2.5 billion barrels of crude.

But the 7,000-strong U'wa community, whose reservation previously covered 98,800 acres (40,000 hectares), mounted a tough fight, backed by international campaigners, to protect what they traditionally consider the blood of Mother Earth and thereby forcing Occidental to suspend all operations.

Occidental is still waiting for government approval to sink its first test well, at a cost of about $30 million, in part of the Samore Block that is just outside the enlarged Indian reservation. There was no official comment from Occidental about the prospect that the wrangle could continue but one senior executive said, This must be clarified. We just don't know what is going to happen.