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.