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McKinney Expresses Outrage at Absence of U'wa

August 15, 2000

Washington - Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), a member of the International Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, expressed outrage today after discovering that members of the Colombian U'wa tribe were denied travel visas to the United States which prevented them from attending a protest held on their behalf in Los Angeles.

McKinney also expressed her support for the protestors in Los Angeles as they marched against Occidental Oil Company on behalf of the U'Wa people of Columbia.

Hundreds of protestors marched to the Staples Center, site of the Democratic National Convention, to demonstrate against the L.A.-based oil company because Oxy plans to drill near land held sacred by the U'wa, forcing them to contemplate mass suicide.

The Colombian Government has granted the oil company the rights to conduct exploratory drilling near the U'wa Indian reserve, but the the U'wa believe oil exploration would bring violence and destroy their culture. In 1997, the group threatened to walk off a cliff if the drilling takes place.

"This is yet another tragic story of corporate greed ignoring the religious and cultural rights of those who don't share their same shallow principles," said McKinney.

"The U'Wa people's decision to commit mass suicide for their religious and cultural beliefs should be an epiphany to oil company fat-cats, government bureaucrats, or any combination therein," McKinney continued.

While the demonstration in Los Angeles was still being planned, members of the U'wa tribe were being denied travel visas by the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. Even though the U'wa elder and representative both have received travel visas in the past as quickly as two days, they were denied this time.

According to Ms. Atolla Saltani of Amazon Watch, an official in the US Embassy in Colombia said that the Uw'a were denied travel visas because," We don't consider the U'Wa to be working in the best interest of the US Government."

"The current administration just doesn't get it. That's why the young people are taking it to the streets: to redefine US interests to respect human rights over corporate greed," said McKinney.

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