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DELTA #3 9/12

  The U'wa in Colombia are in an almost identical situation to the Ogonis in
  1993: a rising level of political education and empowerment, and the
  potential for mass mobilisation. Following the first Ogoni Day when MOSOP
  first stated their non-violent opposition to Shell's operations, the
  killings in the Delta began in earnest. A matter of urgent concern today in
  Colombia is therefore the current level of violence in the region, and the
  very real possibility that such violence, including killings, may be used in
  the immediate future to 'persuade' the U'wa to reconsider their stand.
  "I sing the traditional songs to my children. I teach them that everything
  is sacred and linked. How can I tell Shell and Oxy that to take the petrol
  is for us worse than killing your own mother? If you kill the Earth, then no
  one will live." -U'wa woman, August, 1997
  The U'wa people have lived peacefully in the cloud forests of the Colombian
  Andes for as long as anyone can remember. The last great tragedy to befall
  these 5,000 people happened 400 years ago, when according to oral histories,
  a portion of the tribe committed mass ritual suicide rather than submit
  themselves to Spanish rule. Today, the U'wa are once again talking about
  death as new invaders - Occidental Petroleum ('Oxy') and Shell - move on to
  their land. As the project moves forward one thing becomes very clear:
  Whether it is through the pollution of the land they consider sacred, the
  increased violence that the project will inevitably bring, or by their own
  hand, oil exploration means the death of the U'wa. 
  Oil Project Overview
  In April of 1992, Los-Angeles based Occidental Petroleum was granted
  exploration rights to much of traditional U'wa territory-known to the oil
  companies as the "Samoré block." Shell and Oxy each have a 37.5% investment
  share in the project, and Ecopetrol, the Columbian national oil company, has
  25%.  Oxy, the operator of the joint venture, believes the field to hold
  approximately 1.5 billion barrels of oil, slightly less than three months
  worth of oil for the United States. Since the beginning, Samore project has
  been plagued by guerrilla violence and the steadfast opposition of the U'wa.
  If it can be brought to production, Oxy and Shell stand to make millions in
  profits from what could be one of the largest oil fields in this hemisphere.
  Columbia & Oil
  Colombia is the fourth-largest and fastest-growing major exporter of oil in
  South America, increasing its output by nearly 30 percent in 1995, and
  expecting to double its production by 1998. Under pressure from the United
  States and international financial institutions, the Colombian government
  has turned to increased oil production as a way to pay off its debts. For
  the peoples of Columbia living in oil regions though, multinational oil
  exploitation has brought pollution and conflict.
  As Occidental knows, the growing oil infrastructure has served as a magnet
  for violence. Oxy's Cano Limon pump station and pipeline in Arauca which
  controls almost one third of Colombia's oil export has been attacked by
  guerrillas 473 times in its 11 years of existence. Like in Nigeria and
  Burma, multinational oil companies are turning to the military to protect
  their investments. With the strong presence of guerrillas in the area, the
  Colombian military - recognized as having one of the worst human rights
  records in the world and armed with the latest equipment and weapons by the
  U.S. government - has moved in to protect Oxy's and Shell's oil interests.
  Human rights observers contend and Occidental officials privately concede
  that oil industry activity in the region will only serve to heighten and
  focus the violence.
  In the last decade, some 1.4 million barrels of crude oil have spilled
  because of pipeline sabotage in Colombia (the Exxon Valdez spill was only
  36,000 barrels). As the Samoré block is located in one of the highest
  conflict areas of the country, it is impossible to imagine that the project
  will not result in significant environmental damage to the U'wa homeland.
  This is situated at the headwaters of the Orinoco river basin, which flows
  through sensitive rainforest ecosystems and other indigenous homelands on
  its way to the sea.  All of this is threatened for three months of oil. 
  Current Situation
  "Now they say that the government wants to know our thoughts about the oil
  project, but if they don't like what we think, they will simply proceed with
  their own decisions." - Roberto Cobaria, President of the Traditional U'wa
  In their search for justice the U'wa have turned to both national and
  international legal fora, neither of which has yet to fully recognise the
  U'wa's right to protect their land and culture. In early 1997, two
  contradictory rulings on the U'wa case were handed down by Colombian courts,
  with the Council of State's decision taking precedent. This ruling found
  that the State's right to develop its natural resources, in this case oil,
  superseded the U'wa's constitutional right to consultation and defence of
  its cultural identity.  
  Looking internationally, the U'wa have recently petitioned the
  Inter-American Human Rights of the OAS to call for the project's
  cancellation in defence of the U'wa's human rights. Meanwhile, in response
  to a request from the Colombian government, the OAS in conjunction with
  Harvard University, has issued a series of recommendations in regards to the
  Samoré block, intended to serve as a guide to resolve the conflict between
  the U'wa and oil interests. This report advocates several positives steps to
  be taken in favor of the U'wa, including an immediate and unconditional
  suspension of all oil activities in the Samoré block, and the legal
  recognition of the U'wa's full traditional territory. However, it also
  recommends a process of consultation with the U'wa which is based on
  recognizing the Colombian's States right to exploit oil over the U'wa's
  right to halt it.  The OAS / Harvard path to conflict resolution, therefore,
  depends on the U'wa giving up both their position of resistance as well as
  their vow to collective suicide if the project goes ahead. These assumptions
  not only disregard the U'wa's rights, but in the end could prove horribly
  What you can do:
  Write to Oxy and Shell asking them in your own words to cancel their plans
  for the Samoré block. Let them know that you hold them responsible for the
  U'wa's welfare.
  Dr. Ray R. Irani, CEO
  Occidental Petroleum Corp.
  10889 Wilshire Blvd.
  Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA
  Fax: +1 310 443 6922
  Phillip J. Carroll, CEO
  Shell Oil
  PO Box 2463
  Houston, TX 77252, USA
  Fax: +1 713 241 4044
  The above text can be made into a factsheet. For more information, contact:
  Project Underground, tel: +1 510 705 8981 e-mail:
  Rainforest Action Network, tel: +1 415 398 4404 e-mail: amazonia@ran.org
  U'wa Project International, tel: +1 818 503 8353 e-mail: uwaproject@aol.com
  + In Nigeria's neighbouring country Chad, Shell, Exxon and Elf are starting
  new oil operations. An Environmental Impact Assessment has not been
  finalised, the economic benefits for the oil producing region are doubtful,
  and the first protests are already being suppressed. All the ingredients of
  a new, Nigeria-like oil conflict are present. Report from Irene Bloemink of
  FoE Netherlands.
  The Doba-region in southern Chad and the Niger Delta have much in common.
  Both regions have fertile soil and are capable of producing sufficient food
  for the population. In both regions the minority people also feel suppressed
  and discriminated against by a northern majority group. Human rights
  violations are a common phenomenon. And: there is oil. The big difference,
  however, is the stage of the oil exploitation. Nigeria has had 40 years of
  oil production with all the associated social and environmental impacts,
  whereas oil exploitation in the Doba-region is only about to begin. 
  In Chad 225,000 b/d will be produced by 300 wells from the year 2000.
  Unconfirmed reports reveal reserves four times greater than Nigeria's. The
  oil from Chad is to be transported through Cameroon to the port of Kribi.
  The consortium, comprising 40 % Shell, 40 % Exxon and 20 % Elf, has applied
  for a $120 million loan from the World Bank's IDA Fund. This fund, set up
  for poverty alleviation (!) would provide the oil companies with the
  necessary political support, in addition to the financial support, for the
  pipeline facilities. The Bank will probably make its final decision before
  the summer of 1998.
  "The World Bank has to accept that its real instrument of torture is its
  insistence on growth, its economic theorising at the expense of human
  welfare... The sooner debtor ntions realise the political nature of the
  World Bank, the sooner they will be able to face the bogus economic theories
  of the Bank with an equivalent weapon - people's power." - Ken Saro-Wiwa
  The oil companies could have learned from the environmental and human rights
  disaster in the Niger Delta. Reports from Chad and Cameroon, however,
  consistently indicate the similarlities with the Nigeria debacle.
  The consortium signed the exploitation deal with the (northern-based)
  government of Chad in February 1995, without having completed an
  Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) for the production or transportation -
  like they would do in Britain or the Netherlands. It remains unclear how the
  consortium is going to prevent major and minor oil spills, and it is
  estimated that an average of 7000 litres a day from the total spillages will
  remain undetected. In Cameroon the 1100 km pipeline will cut through
  rainforest areas.
  Both in Chad and Cameroon the local people have hardly been involved at all
  in decision-making regarding the oil operations. Many of the inhabitants in
  the affected areas do not even know about the forthcoming oil development,
  while hundreds of others have already been relocated or will have to be in
  the near future. Compensation is low, and according to the Environmental
  Defense Fund, the President of Chad responded to questions about
  compensation by saying that they "have not thought about it yet". Exxon
  claims to have held public meetings and consultations with NGOs. But one of
  the Cameroonian NGOs, quoted in a pre-document of Exxon as having been
  consulted, told western visitors that they were not willing to cooperate
  with the oil companies. They added that Exxon would not provide most of the
  relevant documents, and did not allow the NGOs to take any documents home
  for serious study.
  The growing discontent of the affected people and of the NGOs has been
  further fed by doubts over the government of Chad's intention to really
  share the economic benefits of the oil with the inhabitants from the region
  itself. The financial flow runs to the state and the recent history of Chad
  shows an unequal distribution. Opposition is usually suppressed, as has
  already been the case when M. Yorongar, MP from the oil producing Logone
  Oriental region, raised the issue with the authorities. Threats were made to
  remove his parliamentary immunity, the step before the government can arrest
  The response of the consortium to possible opposition is one of violence,
  according to Jeune Afrique. In May this year the magazine revealed that 2000
  mercenary soldiers and 10 helicopters would be hired to "protect the pipeline". 
  The question is: who will protect the people? A man from the Doba-region in
  Chad was killed by an Exxon security guard when he took his two children to
  watch the landing of a plane. The military stated in a subsequent report
  that the man was a rebel, and the case was closed.
  Fears of further escalation of oil-related violence are understandable.
  Further instability in Chad, Camaroon, and across West Africa is likely.
  DELTA will keep you informed, or you can contact Amis de la Terre in France
  for more information and action material on Elf and the French
  representative of the World Bank, or Friends of the Earth Netherlands for
  letter writing actions to the Dutch Director of the Bank. The Environmental
  Defense Fund can also provide you with their report 'Chad: the new Ogoniland?'
  Milieudefensie, Damrak 26, Postbus 19199, 1000 GD Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  tel: + 31 20 622 1366, fax + 31 20 627 5287
  Environmental Defence Fund, 1875 Connecticut Avenue. NW, Suite 1016,
  Washington DC, 20009, USA
  tel: +1 202 387 3500, fax +1 202 234 6049, e-mail: korinna@edf.org
  TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Camapign, based in London, is launching a
  campaign to force Shell to give up its exploration rights in the Timor Gap
  between East Timor and Australia.
  The former Portuguese colony of East Timor was invaded by Indonesian armed
  forces in 1975.  Over 200,000 people, about one-third of the population,
  have been killed as a result of the armed occupation, which continues to
  this day.  Torture and brutal repression are widespread throughout the
  The British Government has, for reasons of commercial expediency, done
  nothing to end the appalling tragedy of East Timor.  Instead, it has made
  huge commitments of aid to the murderous Indonesian regime, facilitated the
  sale of arms, such as Hawk aircraft, and promoted British business to its
  position as the leading Western investor in Indonesia.
  In December 1989, Indonesia and Australia signed the Timor Gap Treaty - an
  agreement for the exploration and development of the resources of the Timor
  Gap, which covers some 67,800 sq. km of the Timor Sea.  The Treaty ignores
  the right of the East Timorese to the resources in their own waters and
  infringes their legal and human right to self-determination.   
  Shell is by far the largest operator in the Timor Gap, either in its own
  right or through its significant shareholding in the Australian company,
  Woodside Petroleum.  According to the latest information, it has interests
  in five of the eleven licences granted for the central zone which contains
  the most oil and gas reserves. 
  In demanding that Shell ceases its operations immediately, Arsénio Bano, an
  East Timorese refugee working for TAPOL, said: "Shell's continued
  involvement in the Timor Gap amounts to complicity in Indonesia's
  suppression of East Timor's basic rights and freedoms".
  Shell has maintained its interest in Indonesia itself since the original
  Shell Transport and Trading Company was set up a hundred years ago to
  finance oil exploration on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan (formerly
  Its current interests include six contracts for oil exploration in the Java
  Sea to the north of the island of Java and a contract for exploration and
  development off the north-east coast of Kalimantan.  It is also involved in
  the marketing of oil and chemicals, the manufacturing of petrochemicals and
  bitumen, and has worked closely with the Indonesian company, Bimantara,
  owned by President's Suharto's son, Bambang. These companies have approvals
  to build a $1 billion oil refinery in East Java and another refinery in
  For more information, contact Paul Barber at TAPOL on tel +44 171 497 5355,
  e-mail: hops@gn.apc.org
  Concern over Shell's new $2.7 billion gas project in an isolated region of
  the Peruvian Amazon continues to grow both internationally and in Peru. As
  covered in Rainforest Action Network's February Action Alert, and in our
  Independent Annual Report of the Royal Dutch / Shell Groups of Companies
  (published with Project Underground in May) the oil giant's Amazon project
  poses a serious threat to the rainforest ecosystem and local communities.
  Over sixty indigenous, environmental, and human rights organizations from
  around the world have called on Shell and its investment partner, Mobil, to
  suspend its operations immediately.  
  Meanwhile, Amazonian communities on the front lines have also sounded the
  alarm. Recently, the Peruvian indigenous federation COMARU denounced Shell's
  toxic contamination of rivers and creeks as it searches for gas reserves.
  COMARU, representing thirteen Machiguenga com-munities directly affected by
  Shell's activities, cited the National Engineering University's recent
  analysis of water samples from creeks near Shell's drilling sites, and which
  flow into rivers used by Machiguenga villages for drinking, bathing and
  fishing. Test results found levels of hydrocarbons, cadmium and mercury in
  these waters to exceed levels permitted under Peruvian law. International
  organizations familiar with Shell's toxic legacy on Ogoni lands in Nigeria
  fear that these results are yet another indication of Shell's continuing
  pattern of broken promises, all at the expense of the local communities. 
  For more information, contact the Information Department, Rainforest Action
  Network, 221 Pine Street, Suite 500, San Francisco CA 94104 USA, tel:
  415-398-4404, fax 415-398-2732, e-mail rainforest@ran.org     
  website www.ran.org
  DELTA: News and background on Ogoni, Shell and Nigeria
  Box Z, 13 Biddulph Street, Leicester  LE2 1BH, UK   
  tel/fax: +44 116 255 3223  e-mail: lynx@gn.apc.org      
  web: www.oneworld.org/delta