DATE: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 07:21:52

In this post :

1. Update - Solidarity Actions Needed!
2. communique 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 communique since 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 communiqui 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

Cubara, 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 communiqui 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 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 lands.

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 protest.

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 Reuters.

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@reuters.com))

Wednesday, 17 November 1999 10:47:01

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