The Common Good
November-December 2002

David, Goliath, and Uncle Sam

by Rose Marie Berger, Jodi Hochstedler | November-December 2002

Colombia's U'wa indigenous group, numbering only 5,000, feared for their survival when U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum began plans nearly a decade ago to drill on their lands.

Colombia's U'wa indigenous group, numbering only 5,000, feared for their survival when U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum began plans nearly a decade ago to drill on their lands. When the Colombian army and right-wing death squads battle left-wing insurgents over turf and resources, 75 percent of those killed are noncombatants. The oil drilling would both damage a fragile ecosystem and force U'wa communities into the crossfire. So when Occidental said that it was abandoning its project after a campaign of lawsuits, corporate lobbying, well-site blockades, and prayers from the U'wa that the oil would "move," activists celebrated a David-beats-Goliath victory for the indigenous group.

Unfortunately, Goliath is back—and this time he's got Uncle Sam. The Bush administration wants $98 million in U.S. military aid to protect Occidental's Caño Limón pipeline, which runs near U'wa land. Again the U'wa and international allies are loading their slingshots with nonviolent activism.

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