"We ask that our brothers and sisters from other races and cultures unite in the struggle that we are undertaking... we believe that this struggle has to become a global crusade to defend life." - Statement of the U'wa people, August, 1998
In an amazing show of solidarity events were held in 20 cities in 10 countries around the world to demand that the Colombian government and Occidental Petroleum cancel their plans to drill for oil on the sacred ancestral homelands of the U'wa people. Events ranged from activists scaling buildings to drop banners, demonstrations, guerilla theater, delegations meeting with Colombian officials, letters of protest being delivered, teach-ins, a 24 hour vigil and a statement of solidarity from the communities of the Narmada Valley in India who are fighting to protect their land from being flooded by a mega-dam. More details and pictures can be found on the RAN website - www.ran.org as well as information on the meeting US groups had with the Colombian Environmental Minister last week. If you organized something on behalf of the U'wa (or wants to in the future!) please contact patrick at RAN and let him know - email@example.com.
This is just the beginning! Oct 12 was our response to the granting of the drilling permit. We've shown the Colombian government that the world is watching and sent a clear message that unless they respect the U'wa's rights we will be back. Now we need to continue our organizing, build a stronger network and connect more movements together. Whether groups are working for ecological sanity, indigenous rights, community autonomy, an end to war, or to overthrow the WTO and its corporate masters - there is something in the U'wa struggle for them to connect with. Let us all help make these links!
The next three months will be the critical time for the U'wa. As Occidental moves into U'wa territory they will bring the military and inevitably there will be confrontations. The U'wa are deeply committed to non-violence and are relying on activists around the world to stand with them by keeping the pressure on both the Colombian government and Occidental Petroleum. The U'wa have called on us to help them launch "the global crusade to defend life" not only to protect their culture and homelands but to protect all peoples and ecosystems from the ravages of militarism and multi-national corporate greed. Now is the time for all of us to answer.
Our actions around the globe will continue to speak as one voice in support of not only the U'wa but all communities on the frontlines of globalization. As the U'wa say - defend life!
In solidarity for the Earth and all her Peoples,
Rainforest Action Network
Events took place in the following cities:
From: Ahlia Vallevand, firstname.lastname@example.org
Twenty five activists gathered outside of the Colombian government trade bureau in Toronto at 11am to protest Occidental Petroleum's impending oil project. Local rainforest activists spoke about the issue, as well as Owens Wiwa (the brother of murdered Nigerian activist, Ken Saro Wiwa). The demonstration attracted the attention of the public, and many people stopped and signed letters to Oxy and to the Colombian government. After the speeches were finished a group of three activists went up to the trade bureau and presented a Colombian representative with information about the U'wa, the press release, and an example of the letters that will be presented to the Colombian embassy this week. We wait in anticipation for positive news, and are ready for further action if necessary.[ Other cities ]
A delegation of forest activists, representatives of the Native Youth Movement and the Nuxalk First Nation visited the Colombian consulate in Vancouver. They delivered a letter of protest to the apparently quite surprised consul and warned him that unless the U'wa's rights were respected they would be back.[ Other cities ]
A Delegation of Franciscan monks delivered a letter of support for the U'wa people to the Colombian embassy.[ Other cities ]
From: Earth First! Prague, email@example.com
About 50 people (thats quite a lot despite short time for leaflets... etc) met before Colombian embassy here in Prague. We had banners saying "no oil drilling on U´wa land", "Earth First!" and "stop destroying forests and killing indigenous people". Also there was several funny masks and drummers. We made a press release and send it around local newspapers. And finally we gave a protest letter to Colombian ambassador in Czech rep. Please keep us informed, in case it looks like nothing changes we are prepared to do another maybe more radical action. NO COMPROMISE![ Other cities ]
The struggle of the U'wa People was present in India on the 12th of October at the celebration held to conclude the 10th Monsoon Satyagraha [peaceful struggle] of the Narmada Bachao Andolan [Save the Narmada Movement].
Representatives of 60 villages affected by the ignominious Sardar Sarovar Dam, who gathered from different parts of the Narmada Valley to review this year's resistance against unjust submergence and to corraborate and reinforce their continuous struggle for life and livelihood, began their programme with a solidarity message to their U'wa brothers and sisters in Colombia. The striking similarities between the neocolonial plunder planned by Occidental Petroleum in collaboration with the Colombian government and the displacement and internal deportation of Adivasis [indigenous peoples] and farmers planned by the 'developers' of the Indian elites were discussed, both of which are characterised by the pillage and devastation of sustainable livelihoods to cater national and global upper echelon. The people of the Narmada Valley then passed a resolution expressing their solidarity with the U'wa in their common struggle for life and livelihood, for justice and dignity, and condemning the multinational and national corporations and the governments responsible for so much oppression and destruction.
Finally, one of the main slogans of the movement, "We are all one!", was sung in relation to the U'wa people and the people in the Narmada Valley, making clear that despite the thousands of kilometers of distance that divide them, they are united by the same cause, the same values and the same struggle.[ Other cities ]
From: Trasgu, trasgu@cable.A2000.nl
The demonstration was a small one... anyway it was a good beginning. We will have a meeting on monday 18th. We will collect more signatures and make an official appointment with the consul (the Indigenous Council in the Netherlands and a couple more organizations). We got a couple of radio stations speaking about the issue in Dutch and Spanish and the indigenous council wrote a couple of letters with part of international agreements. We are trying to organize with more time (at least one week) a bigger demonstration.[ Other cities ]
From: Alain Cassani, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello from Geneva. Today we entered as a delegation of 12 persons from various movements in the Colombian Mission by the U.N.and asked a meeting with the director; after pretending it was not possible on this date, we insisted until after a while being attended by an other official. Hanging different signs, we transmitted our deep worry about the recent denial of rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia and ask the government to revoke the license to OXY drilling in UWA traditional land; then we gave a pack of the first 500 letters of protests to be transmitted to the president; we also mentioned our deep concern for the Embera Katio people of the rio Sinu, in a similar situation of the U’wa, being threatened by the permit to fill the URRA dam just these last days. We declare the starting of a world campaign, emphasizing that the U’WA and the Emberas fights are also ours... because it is a struggle for life on earth as a whole. That's all for today, lets keep this great energy of life growing and fight the powerful forces of oildeath![ Other cities ]
From: Leigh Scherberger, email@example.com, 770-232-7084
Atlanta rainforest activists joined with representatives of the American Indian Movement (AIM) to hold a 24 hour vigil outside the Colombian consulate. They caught the public's attention with signs and bright colored banners, and remained in high spirits despite the rain.[ Other cities ]
From: Kim Foster, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-551-6674
Members of the Boston Rainforest Action Group joined with the Colombia Support Network and local students in demonstrating outside the Colombian consulate. Over 1500 leaflets were handed out and a 50 ft long banner reading "Occidental Out of U'wa Land" continues to hang down the front of a sympathetic church just a few doors down from the consulate.[ Other cities ]
From: Brett Doran, email@example.com, 310-392-7656
U'wa Defense Working Group members Action Resource Center, Amazon Watch, and Rainforest Action Network joined forces to hang a banner on the 20+ story building occupied by the Colombian consulate. Identical to the one used in San Francisco it read "Colombia : Invierte en Paz no en Petrole!" (Invest in Peace Not Oil!). 5 activists in total were arrested for the action and were released after being held for 8 hours. The day also including giving flyers to Occidental Petroleum employees as they arrived at work and a demonstration at the consulate. Students from both UCLA and USC (2 local universities which both have links to OXY CEO Ray Irani) participated in the demo and vowed to take the issue back to their respective campuses.[ Other cities ]
From: Patrick Reinsborough, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-398-4404
Around 100 people from various groups gathered outside the Colombian consulate in an energetic rally with lots of signs, chanting and stilt walkers performing interactive guerilla theater. Climbers from RAN and Project Underground rappelled down the side of the building to hang a banner that said "Colombia : Invierte en Paz no en Petrole!" (Invest in Peace Not Oil!). Another banner read "Arms + Oil = More Violence" with accompanying pictographs. The rally featured speakers from the International Indian Treaty Council, groups supporting indigenous resistance in Southern Mexico (both Chiapas and Guerrero)and the International Rivers Network. Selected quotes from U'wa communiques were read out. The climbers and one support person were arrested but released shortly.[ Other cities ]
A demonstration held at the embassy involved activists from Project Underground, Amazon Coalition and groups working for human rights and peace in Colombia. A guerilla theater sketch brought attention to the US government's efforts to give Colombia a $1.5 billion military aid package.[ Other cities ]