U'Wa Update (May 12, 1997)
U'Wa chief Roberto Cobaria and his companion Edgar Mendez have been on a two week U.S tour to try to garner support from environmental organizations and human rights workers in their fight to protect their territory from oil exploitation. They met with Occidental in Los Angles and have been to Washington D.C and San Francisco. The U'Wa are determined to continue their protest of Oxy and are standing firm in their refusal to allow any portion of their land to be bought or sold or contaminated in any way. For the U'Wa petroleum is the blood of the Mother Earth and is crucial for maintaining the balance of the world. Chief Cobaria reiterated that oil is blood and that if there is no blood there is no light and there is no life (no hay vida sin sangre). Petroleum is a part of the U'Wa's environment as much as the forests and rivers and animals are and cannot be removed from its habitat without disrupting this equilibrium which the U'Wa work to maintain and protect. In an interview at the South and Meso American Indian Rights Center Roberto told how petroleum was here on earth before there was anything, before the world was created. The Occidental corporation refuses to respect this belief and has offered more royalties to the community in hopes of gaining access to the oil-rich region. The U'Wa asked Oxy who gave them the authority to buy, sell or exploit that which they do not own. Chief Roberto Cobaria said in a talk at Rainforest Action Network, San Francisco, Wednesday that to negotiate this matter [we] are contaminating ourselves. The U'wa are continuing to fight for their right to protect and preserve the integrity of their land and culture. They feel that any exploration on their ancestral territory will gravely disrupt their culture and traditions as well as the land that has sustained them for centuries.