Help the U'wa Defend Their Ancestral Lands!
Indigenous U'wa leaders must travel to the UN to build international solidarity with their campaign
After a tense 40-day stand-off over a bombed and paralyzed oil pipeline, the U'wa indigenous people came to an agreement late yesterday with the Colombian government, avoiding the possibility of a forceful incursion at the protest site in La China, U'wa territory.
The Colombian government, having achieved their primary objective of being able to repair the pipeline and resume oil shipments, wasted no time in announcing the good news.
The U'wa, on the other hand, are less sanguine. And for good reason. The trashbin of history is littered with governmental promises to indigenous peoples, worth less than the paper they are written on. Please read the translation of their statement, issued this morning (the original in Spanish can be found here).
Though the immediate danger has passed, your support for the U'wa remains as critical as ever! Join us in helping bring U'wa Association President Bladimir Moreno and their lawyer Aura Tegria to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in two weeks. If you will be in NYC or Washington, DC, you will have opportunities to come meet them in-person.
And then, into the future, the pressure exercised by U'wa friends from around the world will help determine the degree to which the Colombian government complies with their commitments and respects the rights of the U'wa people.
ASOU'WAS – Association of U'wa Traditional Authorities and Councils
U'wa Unified Resguardo (reservation)
May 2nd, 2014
Communiqué for National and International Public Opinion:
The U'wa nation would like to inform that, through a meeting carried out with the Colombian government on May 1st within our ancestral territory and after a debate of more than 11 hours – it is clear that the interests of the government and the companies that extract natural resources are the priority over the interests of life, of the integrity of the ancestral peoples of the great sacred U'wa territory, and of the inhabitants of this border region.
The Caño Limón – Coveñas oil pipeline continues to seriously affect our natural, territorial, spiritual and cultural environment, and puts at risk the life of the U'wa people in the midst of the armed conflict that this region of the country is currently living.
The Caño Limón – Coveñas oil pipeline is once again the target of attacks – one occurred on 1 May in the area of La Blanquita within the territory of the U'wa. And the negative impacts continue to be the same given the damages caused by the oil company and the presence of the military and other armed actors that represent big threats to the life of the U'wa people. As such, violations of our human rights and our rights as an indigenous people persist.
And, as if this weren't enough, within the framework of a mining-energy policy, the government continues expediting environmental licenses in an accelerated process for projects within the Sirirí and Catleya oil concessions found in U'wa territory.
The exploratory processes and the different phases that these oil megaprojects pass through re-affirm once again that the Colombian State and the oil companies not only appropriate natural resources but also cause harm to our territory, as is the case of the Caño Limón oil field in Arauca, the Gibraltar well and the Magallanes point found within the department of Norte de Santander. The latter has a direct and indirect area of influence to guarantee their industrial tasks and implies at the outset a deterioration of the sacred Cubugón River which provides water to Arauca.
The U'wa Nation is greatly concerned by the different ways in which they continue intervening in our territory but in particular the Magallanes case given the negative effects not only for the U'wa but also all of the peoples of this part of the country and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, given that the Cubugón, Margua, and Cobaria Rivers are the main tributaries to the Arauca River that flows into the Orinoco Macro Basin.
Not only are the physical impacts evident, but also rupture of the biological cycles and the interruption of the communication channels between the material and spiritual worlds, not allowing for the effective completion of real work carried out by our spiritual elders. It endangers the physical life of our traditional authorities and our culture in general.
For us, it is evident that all of the above concerns are not of interest neither to the oil companies or the Colombian government, and that the legal and juridical routes favor the governmental and corporate interests.
The U'wa Nation ratifies its position of defense and resistance in our just and humble cause. Yesterday, we saw no other option than offering free access to the reparation of the Caño Limón oil pipeline in order to avoid our U'wa people – and the brothers and sisters from social sectors in Cubará and Arauca – who have been in La China and Magallanes being violently evicted and reliving the situation that happened in January of 2000.
At the end we arrived at some minimal agreements within the framework of healthy coexistence and in contribution to peace, integrity, and harmony. Based upon this, we expect the National Government's faithful compliance with what we agreed.
In one month, the U'wa Nation and the national government will meet again to evaluate advances in the commitments and to take new decisions. Meanwhile, operations in the Magallanes block will be suspended for an initial period of one month, at time in which a technical commission – made up of members of the U'wa Nation, governmental organs for control, and delegates of the national government under watch of the international community – will carry out a verification study around the negative impacts caused to the U'wa Nation.
Regarding colonial land titles, a commission will be named in order to carry out a process to study and reaffirm our legitimate right over our sacred territories.
Regarding the issue of National Parks, we ratify our clear position for the right over our lands and sacred sites and we don't accept co-administration.
The process of constituting, expanding, and clearing out the U'wa Reservation will continue. The U'wa Nation ratifies that we are not renouncing our rights over the lands that are currently in hands of the extractive and mining companies, specifically in the cases of Gibraltar and Magallanes.
Finally, the U'wa Nation requests national and international assistance as guarantors of this process of struggle and resistance in favor of us achieving our goals as an ancestral people.