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Colombian U’wa indigenous leaders visit US, urging investors and US Congress to respect human rights

Colombian U’wa Indigenous Leaders Visit US, Urging Investors and US Congress to Respect Human Rights

WASHINGTON, Nov 20, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — More than 15,000 indigenous march on Bogota in Opposition to the US Colombia Free Trade Agreement

As the debate about the Colombia Free Trade Agreement makes headlines, two leaders of U’wa indigenous community arrived in Washington, DC this week, to call attention to the threats facing dozens of indigenous peoples in Colombia in conflicts over land and resources. The U’wa called attention to indigenous mobilizations in Colombia where some 15,000 are marching to Bogota — to protest their government’s backsliding on indigenous land rights in attempt to make way for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

The U’wa met with Congressional offices, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and leading human rights groups to provide an update on the long standing conflict over oil drilling on their lands. The U’wa warned that the trade agreement would worsen human rights abuses and environmental destruction in their country.

Last week the U’wa met with investment firms in New York urging them not to buy shares of the Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol which they say is threatening the future of their people. The U’wa spoke with representatives of JPMorgan Chase to voice their concerns over the bank’s underwriting of Ecopetrol shares on the NY Stock Exchange.

The U’wa leaders reiterated their opposition to oil drilling and stated, "We are warning potential investors that if Ecopetrol expands its oil activity onto our collective land or on our reserve, its shareholders will be directly responsible for the adverse consequences."

Background: The indigenous march from Cali to Bogota began on November 10 after talks with President Uribe failed to produce results on key issues of land and resource rights. The U’wa, a community of 6,000 living in cloudforests of Northeastern Colombia, have long opposed oil drilling on their homeland warning that the oil project will bring violence and destruction to their doorstep. From 1997 to 2002, the U’wa and their allies ran a successful campaign targeting Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and its shareholders, including Fidelity Investments. In 2002, OXY abandoned plans and left U’wa territory. The controversial project is now in the hands of Ecopetrol, which has just been listed on the New York Stock Exchange through JP Morgan Chase.

For interviews, contact Andrew Miller at Amazon Watch at 202-423-4828, [email protected] For more background, visit

 source: Market Watch