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Date: Fri, 21 Aug 98 11:59:19 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Columbia's U'wa Reject Further Oil Exploration
Article: 41543
To: undisclosed-recipients:;;@chumbly.math.missouri.edu
Message-ID: <bulk.1775.19980822121523@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 191.0 **/
** Topic: Columbia's U'wa Reject Further Oil Exploration **
** Written 8:15 PM Aug 20, 1998 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 3:52 PM Aug 18, 1998 by saiic@igc.org in saiic.indio */
/* ---------- U'WA OF COLOMBIA REJECT ALL NEW OIL ---------- */

U'wa of Colombia reject all new oil exploration: New Report Details Occidental Petroleum's Role in Ongoing Crisis

South and Meso American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC)
Press release, 10 August 1998

CONTACT: Steve Kretzmann or Shanna Langdon, 510-705-8981

We are seeking an explanation for this progress that goes against life. We are demanding that this kind of progress stop, that oil exploitation in the heart of the earth is halted, that the deliberate bleeding of the Earth stop. - Communique from the U'wa People, 8/10/98

After two and a half months of fasting and meditating, the U'wa people of Colombia have returned from the mountains to declare their unequivocal rejection of any new oil exploration on their ancestral lands. The announcement underscores the continuing controversy around Occidental's proposed oil project.

The U'wa, a deeply spiritual people of 5,000 in northeast Colombia, believe that oil is the blood of the earth. They have previously threatened mass suicide if Los Angeles based Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) moved forward with plans to drill on their lands. In late May, Oxy announced that it was moving off of lands that are claimed under Colombian law by the U'wa, but was seeking to retain rights to drill a new well on the larger U'wa ancestral territory. The U'wa have not formally responded to this new proposal (on which they were never consulted), and are reportedly waiting to see how the Colombian government reacts to recommendations from a Harvard University conflict resolution team. The first demand of the U'wa remains that they are granted legal title to their enlarged Reservation.

The U'wa are supported in Colombia by an increasingly large coalition of campesinos, transport workers, shopkeepers, and community organizations. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), from July 30th through August 14th members of these groups in the states of Arauca and North Santander, and Boyaca all went on strike to demonstrate their anger at oil development and all that it brings - continuing militarization, deaths around the Cano Limon pipeline, the destruction of indigenous cultures and of the environment. According to Abadio Green Stocel, President of ONIC the general strike paralyzed transport and commerce, while approximately 30,000 marched and held demonstrations to show their opposition to oil exploitation and what it brings.

A new report released today by Project Underground, an organization that supports communities threatened by the mining and oil industries, details the six year old struggle between the U'wa, Occidental Petroleum, Royal /Dutch Shell, and the Colombian government. Blood of Our Mother reveals Oxy's direct payments to the Colombian military, a clear relation between oil development, violence and human rights abuses, and evidence that Shell's withdrawal from the project was motivated by public relations concerns.

The U'wa have been successful in stopping oil exploration because of their clear opposition. Their decision to renew that principled stance places them at the vanguard of communities that are saying no to Big Oil, and ensures that their cause will gain more recognition and support. said Steve Kretzmann, Oil Campaign Director for Project Underground.