U’wa Leaders Arrive in Los Angeles to Attend April 30 Annual Meeting Shareholders Direct Occidental Petroleum to Assess Financial Risks of Colombian Oil Project on U’wa Tribal Lands -- Video Footage (Beta) and Interviews with Tribal Leaders Availab


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Ada Recinos at +1.510.473.7542 or ada@amazonwatch.org

Leaders from the U’wa tribe of Colombia arrived in Los Angeles yesterday in preparation of a week of activity surrounding Occidental Petroleum’s April 30 annual shareholder meeting in Santa Monica, CA.

Shareholders concerned by the ongoing conflict between the U’wa Indians and Occidental Petroleum are sponsoring a resolution to be considered at the company’s annual meeting. The shareholder resolution, which is being sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters, directs Oxy to commission "an independent risk analysis report addressing the potential impact on long-term profitability, including any future decline in stock price, which may occur due to the [U’wa Indians’] threat of mass suicide."

In a mailing to the company’s top 100 shareholders last week, the Sinsinawa Dominicans notified fund managers of the U’wa’s threat to walk off a 1400-foot cliff in a mass suicide if Occidental drills on their sacred land. The letter alerted investors to the potential bottom-line impacts of Oxy’s controversial Samoré oil project and invited shareholders to join the Sinsinawa Dominicans in publicly supporting the resolution.

The sponsors of the resolution point to the withdrawal of Oxy's original partner in the Samoré oil operation, Royal Dutch/Shell, early last year as evidence of the project’s financial risks.

The U’wa, a traditional Indigenous tribe of 5,000 live in the cloud forests of Colombian Andes. U'wa people say that the entire Samoré oil block falls within their ancestral homeland and fear that violence and pollution will only escalate in the region if the project goes forward. Oxy claims it has put the project on hold. However, the Ministry of Environment in Colombia confirms that the company is currently pursuing a permit from the Colombian government for its proposed drilling site.

Since the inception of Oxy’s Samoré oil project, violence has become more widespread in the U’wa territory. Last month, three Americans who were helping the U'wa to set up educational programs were kidnapped and murdered by rebels. Among the slain was Terence Freitas, the 24-year old Los Angeles activist who coordinated the U’wa Defense Working Group, a coalition of U.S. environmental and human rights organizations working in support of the U’wa people including Amazon Watch, EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, Project Underground, and Rainforest Action Network. Freitas had worked with the Sinsinawa Dominicans to draft this resolution.

A press conference and rally featuring the U’wa leaders, sympathetic shareholders, the Freitas family, and members of the U’wa Defense Working Group will be held outside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at 9:30 am on April 30. Rallies and demonstrations are planned around the world during the week of April 25-30 as part of the international week of action in support of the U’wa people.

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