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Monday, February 12, 2007

ONIC's official statement against assault on the U"Wa

Statement Issued by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (Organizacion Nacional de Indigenas de Colombia ONIC)
on January 23, 2007 regarding the
Assault against the Rights of the U¹wa by President Uribe¹s Government
(Translated by Elena Meyer, a CSN volunteer translator)

Our Organization categorically rejects President Alvaro Uribe Velez in his government¹s impingement upon U¹wa ancestral and current lands in order to find and extract oil.  We fully support the U¹wa Peoples¹ stance, set forth in their position paper entitled ³Against the Agreements Reached under the Native Peoples¹ Right to Prior Consultation.² This document was presented to the Colombian government on October 12, 2006 under the aegis of the U¹wa Rights Organization, ASOU¹WA.  It can be found at www.onic.org.co/documento.  

The U¹wa¹s position is summarized in the following excerpt from this document, written to comment on this recently negotiated set of agreements:

³As native people who have inhabited this area for around a thousand years, the United Nations granted us a right to self-determination on June 29, 2006. Similar rights were granted to us under Law 21, which was passed in our country in 1991.  We therefore outright reject the SIRIRI and CATLEYA projects to extract oil or any other natural resources (renewable or nonrenewable) from our sacred lands called KERACHIKARA.²

The U¹wa people and their Organization are not demanding self-governance as part of their right to self-determination; they are simply seeking autonomous rights within the country of Colombia.  Their self-determination cannot exist without opportunities to vote and participate in the decisions made regarding U¹wa lands and resources.  This right to self-determination relates both to U¹wa internal governance, and to the government¹s respect for their right to self-determination, which the U¹wa deserve not only from our government but from all business interests as well.

These U¹wa appeals for self-determination are not meant to be of a separatist nature, so it is unfair and unacceptable to accuse the U¹wa of having separatist aspirations simply to undermine their legitimate basic rights.

The U¹wa people clearly understand that this agreement has environmental, social, economic and cultural ramifications.  Accepting it would allow multinational corporations and the Colombian government to pillage the oil reserves on their lands after years in which the U¹wa have defended their rights to these resources.

The Colombian government cannot continue to mislead its native peoples and other Colombians with its deceptive sloganeering, claiming that ³our general well-being takes precedence over all individual interests,² when we all know that the profits from exploiting our nation¹s natural resources mainly benefit a handful of wealthy Colombians and the executives of various multinational corporations.  This slogan has been used as a smokescreen to usurp the Colombian native peoples¹ rights to the renewable and non-renewable resources on their lands.

This deceptive set of agreements should not supplant our federal and international rights.  The provisions set forth by President Uribe threaten the annihilation of the U¹wa rights, culture and, ultimately, of the U¹wa People.  Therefore, the U¹wa object on historical, constitutional, legal, social, economic, environmental, and cultural grounds to the Colombian Government¹s stance regarding its right to authorize the prospecting for and extraction of oil from U¹wa lands.  The U¹wa People want to permanently enjoin the government from any such impingement on their lands, based on their rights to self determination as set forth in Article VII of the Constitution.  This Article addresses the rights of Colombia¹s Native Peoples and should serve to protect the U¹wa rights to the lands of their people¹s culture, historical memory and natural resources.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia [ONIC] condemns this intervention into U¹wa lands on the part of President Uribe and his government and requests active support and solidarity from other national and international indigenous peoples¹ organizations, as well as from other human rights organizations.  It further demands that the Colombian government cease and desist from transporting oil extraction equipment onto U¹wa lands, given that on January 17, 2007, the government began transporting oil extraction equipment onto these lands, using over 150 heavy trucks to do so.  An incursion of this magnitude could destroy the heart of the U¹wa motherlands at a site known to the Government simply as ³Gibralter Well #3.²

This incursion onto U¹Wa lands confirms President Uribe¹s arbitrary, authoritarian, unconstitutional and illegal intentions vis-à-vis the U¹wa lands.  This violates an agreement reached on February 2, 2006, which states that the government should take into account any objections or comments formally presented by the U¹wa People regarding their land rights.  These objections and comments were formally delivered on October 12, 2006, but the U¹wa have yet to receive a reply.  To date, the Government has ignored the U¹wa¹s right to prior consultation and unilaterally intervened on U¹wa lands.  The U¹wa authorities condemn this flagrant violation of their fundamental and human rights which could result in the genocide of their People.

We ask that Colombia¹s Attorney General¹s and Public Defender¹s Offices form an investigatory team to inspect, document, and eventually bring charges related to these unprecedented acts of aggression because of their irreversible consequences.  We urge the international community and human rights organizations therein to reject the ethnocide of the U¹wa People and to demand that the Colombian Government abide by the international treaties it has signed related to human rights and to the rights of indigenous peoples, while respecting the laws related to the origins of the U¹wa.

We want international political and legal entities to hold the Colombian Government responsible for its serious impingements upon the rights of the U¹wa People, obligating the government to cease this systematic physical and cultural extermination of people who simply want their autonomy.


The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia [ONIC]
January 22, 2007  

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org



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