Three of Colombia’s government ministers will meet with leaders of the U’wa indigenous people on Friday to discuss local concerns over oil operations in the area, local news reported Tuesday.
|“[Oil projects are an] imminent threat to the physical, social and cultural integrity of the U’wa, their environment, and ancestral territory.|
According to El Espectador, Colombia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of the Environment will travel to Toledo on Friday to discuss the concerns of the community, after the group refused to permit repairs to a section of key oil pipeline blown up by guerrillas 21 days ago.
Suspected guerrillas blew up a section of the Limon-Coveñas pipeline in Toledo, a rural area of North Santander bordering Venezuela, causing oil spills and pollution of water sources, reported EFE on Tuesday.
In 2013, there were at least 27 guerrilla attacks on the same pipeline, which is jointly owned by the Colombian state oil firm Ecopetrol and U.S. company Occidental Petroleum.
The 480 mile oil pipeline transports crude oil produced in the fields of Arauca bordering Venezuela to the Caribbean port of Covenas in the north of Colombia.
The U’wa, one of the most active indigenous groups in defending their traditional rights and customs, have opposed oil exploration and drilling on their land for decades. The group once even threatened mass suicide if Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) continued drilling projects, according to the 1998 Goldman Environmental Prize citation of the protest leader, Berito Kuwaru’wa.
Non-withstanding previous constitutional court rulings in favor of the U’wa, oil companies have continued exploiting territory that the indigenous group claims is theirs, and protected by law.
In a statement issued in late March, 2014, and published by Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC), the Association of U’wa Traditional Authorities and Councils ( ASOU’WA ) said that the oil pipeline and other exploratory projects were an “imminent threat to the physical, social and cultural integrity of the U’wa, their environment, and ancestral territory.”
For months the indigenous group has been asking for a meeting with Colombian President Santos, to discuss not only their opposition to the oil project, but the ecological damage from various attacks, among other indigenous rights issues.
As their needs had not been addressed , the A’waa did not allow Ecopetrol technicians to repair the pipeline after the bombing last month.
- Ministros colombianos dialogarán con indígenas que impiden reparar oleoducto (El Espectador)
- Ministros colombianos dialogarán con indígenas que impiden reparar oleoducto (EFE)
- ASOU’WA ratifica denuncias por daños al ecosistema en territorio ancestral (Autoridad Nacional de Gobierno Indigena)
- Berito Kuwaru’wa (The Goldman Environmental Prize)
- Indigenas U’wa en Boyacá no permitirán reparación de oleoducto Caño Limón (Caracol Radio)