The U'wa indigenous people continue their peaceful struggle against the Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum, which began its seven-month exploratory drilling phase in early November 2000. The situation on the ground at the drillsite has become extremely militarized.
On September 30, 2000, the U'wa reported that a military escort of 3,000-4,000 soldiers accompanied OXY's convoy of more than 80 trucks transporting drilling equipment from the town of Saravena. As of February 9, 2001, U'wa representatives noted that there were still around 2,000 soldiers in the vicinity. Twenty-five U'wa continued to maintain their vigil and they reported that the situation is fairly stable. They have not reported any current mistreatment, but the U'wa still want to mobilize to block any further encroachment of their territory, and are still desperately seeking funds to do so.
The international campaign in the support of the U'wa people has had some success. As of a result of some 75 protests worldwide, Fidelity Investment dumped over 60% of its overall holdings in Occidental, representing $400 million dollars, or the equivalent of 18 million shares. The largest single shareholder is now Sanford Bernstein & Co., which controls 53 million shares, valued at more than $1.1 billion.
In December, Roberto Pérez, President of the U'wa Traditional Authority, visited the San Francisco offices of Sanford Bernstein to deliver a letter demanding that Sanford divest from Occidental.
Once again, the U'wa people reject the enslaving attitude of Occidental Petroleum, which continues to disregard the sovereignty and legitimacy of the U'wa, a millennial people, by allowing agents of the multinational Occidental Petroleum to trample our Ancestral Territory.
For our people, it is ominous and abusive that the men of Occidental, along with the Colombian government, program actions that injure and violate the cultural and territorial principles of the U'wa and of the campesinos who are our brothers who come with impartiality to support our just cause, therefore:
The U'wa people continue with our strong position against exploitation of our resources in our ancestral and sacred territory. We continue denouncing before the world the inhuman acts that the multinational Occidental Petroleum and the Pastrana government render upon our people. We do not accept for any reason the expropriation of our territory, which is duly titled in the name of the collective property of the U'wa people. Soon the company will carry out an expropriation which engineer Pedro Valderrama claims has been duly legalized by a decision from a judge from Toledo (Norte de Santander) whereby the company could use 12 hectares. We believe the expropriation of 4 hectares of land titled under collective deed and duly registered to the U'wa people is imminent. This land also makes up part of our ancestral territory.
This is how Occidental has shown its interests to the media, by hiding the abuses and violations that are plotted with the Colombian government to satisfy the necessities of the multinational companies and, as a consequence, violating human rights, and exterminating human and natural resources, and millennial cultures that still exist in this territory.
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