U'wa Two Tell Of Gore's Oxy Morons
Two of Columbia’s threatened U’wa indians visit UK to highlight US-backed destruction
28th March 2000 / Squall Download 4, May-June 2000, pg. 13.
Two members of Colombia's U'wa tribe, who are perhaps best known for their threat to commit suicide if Occidental Oil carve up their indigenous lands, are to visit the UK in April as part of a wider US and European tour.
Their struggle has gathered global attention recently partly due to international days of action against Occidental's biggest investor, Fidelity (US). The U'wa, a native Colombian tribe, are engaged in a tense standoff with US based Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) over the drilling of the Gibraltar 1 oil well. The U'wa, a deeply spiritual people who believe that oil is the "blood of Mother Earth", have repeatedly stated that they "are willing to die" to keep oil drilling off of their ancestral lands. More than 2,500 local farmers, union members, and students have joined thousands of U'wa and other indigenous peoples in non-violent blockades and protests near the well site to stop Oxy's project.
The heavy military presence around the oil project has already led to violence against peaceful indigenous peoples. In the last month, many have been injured and at least three have died. The situation remains very tense and is exacerbated by a civil war in Columbia between left wing guerrilla's (FARC) and right wing militia's backed by the Colombian Army. The US government have just sanctioned £850 million worth of military training and hardware for the Colombian military and the British army is helping train their soldiers. The US say the aid is designed to help fight the cocaine trade but it is widely acknowledged it will be used to fight left wing guerillas. Both the US and the Colombian military claim FARC are benefiting financially from the Colombian cocaine trade in regions they control. However, Human Rights groups say that the right wing militia's are far more involved in the cocaine trade than FARC and that these militia's receive direct support from the Colombian military. The American money they argue is another example of the US meddling in Latin American affairs in order to keep left wing forces out of the picture.
The U'wa say this civil war often rages around power installations and that the oil drills on it traditional lands will attract violence and destruction.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, US vice president, Al Gore, has enjoyed a corporate sponsorship of Oxy throughout his political career. He controls up to $500,000 in Oxy stocks and has received $20,000 a year for almost 30 years from mining rights to his land that Oxy never mined. Gore's father made a great deal of his wealth while working for Oxy and its ex-chairman, Armand Hammer. Gore Sr. sat on the Board of Oxy for twenty-eight years. Since Gore was elected Vice President, Oxy Chairman Ray Irani has given more than $400,000 to the Democratic Party. Furthermore, Gore's "reinventing government" initiative resulted in the sale of the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve to Occidental in 1998. The unprecedented closed bidding process was the largest privatization of federal property in U.S. history, one that tripled Occidental's U.S. oil reserves overnight.
The planned dates for the UK visit are:
Arrive in UK: April 16. Depart UK for Colombia: April 19.
A public meeting will take place in the evening of Monday April 17 in London, at a soon to be announced venue.
A demo is being organised for the next morning, Tuesday April 18.
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