ELL: U'wa: General Strike - Dead Children - OXY Admits Paying Guerrillas

Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Fri Feb 18 15:06:47 UTC 2000


Media Advisory:  February 17, 2000

Contacts:   Atossa Soltani 310-317-7045   Steve Kretzmann 510-551-7953
            Lauren Sullivan 415-398-4404  Martin Wagner 415-627-6700

General Strike in Effect in U'wa Region in Colombia
Dead Children Named, One Body Found
In Washington, OXY Admits Payments to Guerrillas

Responding to the recent use of force by the Colombian National Police
against the peaceful U'wa, rural workers throughout the region began a
general strike on February 15. Scheduled to last three days, the strike is
being observed in the districts of Araucanos de Fortul, Saravena y
Arauquita, as well as Cubar‡ where businesses remained closed and public
transportation was suspended.

The Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo reported that the body of one of the
victims of Friday's incident, four-month old Nury B—cota, daughter of Pastor
and Gloria B—cota, was found. The names of two other children believed dead
were also reported as 10 year-old Jorge Anicuta and 9 year-old Maricio Diaz.
The two were from the Guahibo indigenous community of Geareros (Tame) who
had joined protests in solidarity with the U'wa. Search for the other bodies
is made difficult due to the terrain and the fast current of the Cuboj—n
River.  The U'wa also claim a fourth infant may have died in the clash.

Families and friends of the four-month old victim conducted a burial service
yesterday.  The children allegedly drowned after the soldiers and anti-riot
police used tear gas, bulldozers and riot sticks to charge the blockade,
forcing the U'wa to jump into the fast flowing Cubuj—n River. The National
Police had previously denied reports of deaths as a result of the

The U'wa also released the names of four U'wa who were  injured and 11
additional people reported missing following the incident. The injured are
reported as: Maria Antoineta Ihuanito, Chela Ihuanito, Patricia Ihuanito,
and Luis Caballero. The missing are reported as: Eleanora Herrera, Luz Elena
Herrera, Gustavo Delgado, Wilson Diaz, Antonio Delgado, Nelson Diaz, Edgar
Diaz, Tonio Delgado, Freddy Diaz, Alfredo Diaz, Wilson Herrera.

Meanwhile in Washington this week, Larry Meriage, Occidental Petroleum's
Vice President of Public Affairs admitted that Oxy regularly pays off the
Colombian Guerrillas. Testifying before the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy
and Human Resources Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Meriage
stated that: "[our employees] are regularly shaken down by both the FARC and
the ELN. They are required to pay a "war tax" to both of the guerrilla
groups or they are not able to work."

"Meriage's admission that Oxy pays the guerrillas underscores the absurdity
of looking for oil in the middle of a war zone." said Steve Kretzmann of
Amazon Watch. "It also reinforces what the U'wa have always said about this
project - that it will only bring more violence to their region. The only
responsible course of action for Oxy and the Colombian Government is an
immediate suspension of the SamorŽ project pending a negotiated settlement
that all sides are party to."

Video footage taken by the U'wa of the February 11 incident has aired on
Colombian Television stations. Copies of any of  the aforementioned
documents are available upon request.


Nicholas Ostler notes:
You can hear interviews with some of the protagonists in a National Public
Radio "All Things Considered" recording, in RealAudio at

This is not the only small indigenous group whose continued existence (and
hence of course language)  is threatened by the Occidental Petroleum
Company.  The Siona and Secoya people on the border of Colombia and Ecuador
are also in a struggle to stop Occidental's despoliation of their lands
along the Aguarico river. See  http://forests.org/ric/wrr39/oxy.htm
and the letter to the ELL list by "Paula Meyer" <pmeyer at sdcoe.k12.ca.us> in

MARCH 9TH - GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION FOR THE U'WA! Let's make it a day that
Fidelity will remember when we show them that there is No Business as Usual
for companies who profit from genocide!
Start organizing a demonstration today!  More information and downloadable
factsheets at www.ran.org  Contact patrick at RAN (+1) 415-988-4404 or
1-800-989-RAIN or organize at ran.org.

                       Nicholas   Ostler
              Foundation for Endangered Languages
                  Registered Charity 1070616

             Batheaston Villa,  172 Bailbrook Lane
             Bath           BA1 7AA        England
             +44-1225-85-2865 fax +44-1225-85-9258
                  nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk

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