Colombia’s northeastern indigenous U’wa community, embroiled in tensions with the national government, said ministers failed to show up on Monday at a meeting over the indigenous’ blocking of the repair of an oil pipeline going through their territory.
U’wa leaders reportedly were waiting left waiting for the government representatives for eight hours for a meeting that never happened, according to Caracol Radio. The meeting hoped to continue to seek a resolution to the current paralysis of petroleum production in Colombia’s northeastern state of Norte de Santander.
The U’wa tribe has been blocking repairs to the Caño Limon pipeline — Colombia’s second most important oil pipeline — for multiple weeks now, jeopardizing 2.2 million barrels of oil production a month.
The government claimed to have already lost over $136 million in royalties, taxes, and dividends.
The pipeline has suffered multiple attacks over the past year allegedly by leftist guerrilla groups, but currently the indigenous group is holding up plans to fix the oil line to get the government’s attention on certain issues.
Primarily, the U’wa community is seeking restitution for environmental and cultural problems they claim have been caused by transportation infrastructure, and they are demanding that oil exploitation projects be removed from their territory.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Amylkar Acosta, sat down with U’wa leaders on Friday to discuss the situation, though no solutions were agreed upon.
A meeting was supposed to take place Monday between Acosta, Minister of the Interior Aurelio Iragorri, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Luz Sarmiento, and leaders of the U’wa tribe to continue searching for a resolution.
That meeting never took place.
“We reject the lack of respect demonstrated in this day, when the high government left more than 300 of us U’wa waiting,” said U’wa leader Yimmy Aguablanca.
Aguablanca added however that he is still more than open to dialogue as he and his people are not the ones facing the consequences of not meeting.
“The time [being wasted] is not of the U’wa people, the time is of the National Government — while more time is delayed in resolving the requests of the U’wa people, the higher the problem is going to be,” said the leader referring to the financial burden on the government without being able to fix the pipeline.
The U’wa are one of Colombia’s most active indigenous groups in defending their traditional rights and customs, and have opposed oil exploration and drilling on their land for decades.
This particular paralysis has been going on for over 30 days.