Colombian Tribe Topples Mighty Oil Giant

Colombian Tribe Topples Mighty Oil Giant

Divine intervention and the will of 5,000 indigenous people of
the U’wa tribe may have spared Siriri, Colombia, from Occidental
Petroleum’s drill. Gabrielle Banks reports in
AlterNet that Occidental pulled out of the plan
earlier this month, though the company insists that an exploratory
drilling that yielded no oil was the real reason.

The cause of the dry well, many environmentalists suspect, was the
U’wa people’s prayers for the oil to ‘move.’

After a nearly 10-year battle in which the U’wa tribal leaders
‘diligently filed lawsuits, lobbied at corporate headquarters, and
mobilized peaceful blockades at well sites to block Occidental,’
the tribe took their cause to the U.S., where it garnered sympathy
and support. (The U’wa had even resorted to threats of mass suicide
if Occidental was given the go-ahead with plans to drill, prompting
protesters to put the pressure on Al Gore, who was at the time a
major stockholder in Occidental.)

What happened in the interim seems to be a mystery, and the result
a miracle, as Occidental geologists soon confirmed that it was
futile to proceed with drilling.

Whatever the actual cause of Occidental’s backdown may be, Banks
says that the victory is an example of what peaceful collective
action can accomplish. It is also a memorable lesson for
multinationals in general. Banks quotes Michael Brune of the
Rainforest Action Network: ‘It shows that drilling for oil in
ancestral territories of indigenous communities in a tropical
rainforest region is an unviable and untenable business
plan.’
–Julie Madsen
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