FARC Admission Cannot Take Place of Investigation Peace in the U'WA Region Requires Suspension of Oil Project

U'WA DEFENSE WORKING GROUP

For more information, contact:

Rania Batrice at +1.510.394.2041 or rania@amazonwatch.org


Following yesterday's revelation by leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that one of its commanders is responsible for the senseless killings of our three friends and colleagues Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Lahe'ena'e Gay, we condemn this act in the strongest terms and demand that perpetrators be brought to non-violent justice. We are horrified that a group that claims to be in solidarity with indigenous peoples commits such barbaric acts. FARC's admission cannot take the place of a full investigation into the deaths. We call on any investigation into the deaths of our friends to include an examination of the roles and responsibilities of multinational oil companies in the ongoing cycle of violence in the region.

In addition to learning the details surrounding the murders, it is critical to understand the cycle of violence in Colombia which created the conditions in which these killings took place. Oil is Colombia's most important export commodity, and is therefore a strategic target in Colombia's ongoing civil war. Guerrilla factions target these areas for bombings and other acts of violence. In response, the Colombian government has increasingly militarized areas of oil exploration and production. The real victims of the conflict are the local peoples and their supporters. The beginning of this cycle in the U'wa territory coincided with Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum's efforts to drill on their land. The upswing of violence in this region can only be expected to increase – taking with it the lives of more innocent and peace-loving people-as long as Occidental Petroleum continues its oil project. We call on Occidental to suspend operations and withdraw its application to drill on U'wa ancestral lands. This is the single most important step the corporation can take towards fostering peace in the region.

The deaths of these three people who worked for peace and justice must not be an excuse for fueling Colombia's civil war with U.S. tax dollars. Nor should this horrific event be used to impede the peace talks in Colombia. Indeed, the death of our friends is a strong signal that all parties must come to the table to end the violence besieging Colombia.

Peace in Colombia at this time cannot be achieved simply by diplomatic overtures, but must also be built from the ground up. For the U'wa, this peace will only come with the cancellation of the oil project slated for their land, which, in the words of Terence Freitas, "hangs over them like a shadow of death."

May the bodies of our brothers and sisters become stones that will keep the Earth in balance.

May their blood replace the blood that others have taken from our territory.

May their spirits rise together and protect the space of the U'wa and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

May their words and commitment remain strong in our memory and in God's.

– Colombian National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), March 7, 1999

Members of the U'wa Defense Working Group: Amazon Coalition o Amazon Watch o Action Resource Center o Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund o EarthWays Foundation o International Law Project for Human Environmental & Economic Defense o Project Underground o Rainforest Action Network o Sol Communications.

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