Colombian Indigenous Travel to New York to Urge Investors Not to Buy Shares of Colombian State Oil Company Ecopetrol

U’wa leaders spoke with representatives of JP Morgan Chase and potential investors to voice concerns over Ecopetrol’s activity on their ancestral lands

Amazon Watch and ASOUWA

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Washington D.C. — Two leaders of Colombia’s U’wa community traveled to New York City last week to meet with investment firms, urging them not to buy shares of the Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol. The U’wa leaders spoke with representatives of JPMorgan Chase to voice their concerns over the bank’s support for sale of Ecopetrol stock on the NY Stock Exchange.

In an open letter to JP Morgan Chase issued today, the U’wa leaders reiterated their opposition to oil activities and stated, “We are announcing to potential Ecopetrol shareholders that if Ecopetrol expands its oil activity onto our collective land or on our reserve, that its shareholders will be directly responsible. If that happens, we will present the case before the Inter-American Human Rights Court.”

The U’wa leaders also met with a nearly dozen groups of investors and financial analysts, to inform them of the situation with Ecopetrol and to urge them not to buy shares of the company.

“Potential Ecopetrol investors should know that the company is violating Indigenous rights by drilling on U'wa ancestral lands" said Andrew Miller, Amazon Watch Colombia campaigner. "Buying shares in Ecopetrol would support activities which threaten the U'wa environment, culture, and way of life.”

The U'wa leaders will be in Washington, DC, until November 24th, meeting with environmental and human rights groups, members of the US Congress, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to discuss their case.

Background: In the context of Colombia’s 40-year civil war, the U'wa having long expressed their concern that oil and gas extraction will bring violence to their doorstep. Coinciding with increased exploratory activities around the Gibraltar platform, the U’wa reserve has seen a startling increase in armed presence by illegal armed actors, such as the FARC, and by Colombian military forces. Over the years, the U’wa have repeatedly denounced this trend towards militarization of their territories.

Between 1997 and 2002, investors of Occidental Petroleum were targeted by an international campaign. Fidelity Investments, a top shareholder of the company and world's largest mutual fund, was hit by some 75 protests from February to October 2000. Subsequently, Fidelity dumped over 18 million in OXY shares. This precedent-setting divestment represented 60 percent of Fidelity's overall holdings, worth more than $400 million dollars. Additionally, the international solidarity efforts for the U'wa grabbed headlines around the world.

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