Letter: Abby R.to Gore re: U’wa


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

I would think it would be a good tactic for several of us to send this
letter to Al Gore. the more people who send it to him, the more he is likely
to realize that we have read it and care deeply about this issue.

Thanks all of you who manage to act on this. 

all the best,  a deeply moved Jan

PS the only contact info I have for Al Gore is: AL GORE'S CAMPAIGNS HQ IN
NEW HAMPSHIRE: 603-622-8303. I just tired calling there and there was no
answer. If anyone can send me better contact info, please do!


Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 18:14:09 -0800
From: Randy Schutt <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Letter to Gore from Abby Reyes regarding U'wa-Occidental
 Petroleum Conflict

  Subject: please help - letter to Gore from Abby regarding
  U'wa-Occidental Conflict

  I am writing from Palawan, Philippines. I just sent the following letter
  to VP Gore's very generic fax number. I am sending the letter to you in
  case any one of you has any more effective way to reach him, more
  directly. I don't. Not that I can think of. Do you?

  We heard yesterday that VP Gore will be meeting soon with his lawyers to
  figure out what to do about his Occidental investments. This is a rumor.
  But if it is true, it makes it all the more salient to get the below
  letter to him soon.

  Thanks for taking a minute to read and think about if/how you might be
  able to help me.

  ...If you can think of any publications that might run it,
  please, if you can, just go for it on my behalf! I can't very effectively
  do so from Palawan!

  I will be back in CA on Feb 17. in email contact, yes. (•••@••.•••)



  c/o 445 Summit Road
  Watsonville, CA 95076
  February 3, 2000

  Dear Vice President Gore,

  I write to you as the girlfriend of Terence Freitas, one of three human
  rights workers kidnapped and assassinated last March while assisting the
  U'wa indigenous community of oil-rich northeastern Colombia. I write to
  you from Palawan, Philippines, where I too help provide crucial
  environmental legal assistance to indigenous communities. I write to
  remind you of the various roles you personally have played in the case
  of the U'wa, including that of meeting Terence and the U'wa in 1997.

  One year ago this week, as I unpacked moving boxes into the apartment
  Terence and I would have shared in Brooklyn, I found myself shelving two
  copies of Earth in the Balance: my own, and that of Terence. I sat down
  with the book again, rereading with marvel the poignant message you
  asserted in 1993. You insisted that policy makers and the general
  citizenry alike must take into account environmental and social costs of
  our coveted northern affluence. Proudly, I thought back to the time
  Terence met with you in Washington D.C., at a gathering for the 1997
  Goldman Environmental Prize recipients. Terence was instrumental in
  bringing the U'wa struggle against Occidental Petroleum to world-wide
  attention. He accompanied U'wa leader Roberto Cobaria to your office.
  How strong a statement of solidarity, for the Vice President of the
  United States to meet with an indigenous leader from the cloudforest of
  Colombia, recognizing his peoples' adamant resistance to a US
  multinational oil company. You, Terence, the U'wa leader, and your
  principles, standing there together in your office.

  While I reread Earth in the Balance last February, Terence was in the
  U'wa cloudforest with Native American leaders Ingrid Washinawatok and
  Lahe'ena'e Gay on a cultural exchange. On February 18, Terence called
  from Cubara, Colombia. I told him about the two copies of Earth in the
  Balance. We discussed whether you could be tapped as a more vocal U'wa
  ally in the campaign against the pending ecological, cultural, and
  economic havoc oil exploitation would spell for the U'wa and Colombia.
  We were hopeful about your potential leadership on this pressing
  environmental case. That phone call was the last time I talked to
  Terence. One week later, on the day he was to return to New York, he and
  his companions were kidnapped by guerrillas who are allegedly on
  friendly terms with Occidental. One week after that, the bound bodies of
  these three human rights workers were found splayed and disfigured by
  rounds of bullets just across the Venezuelan border.

  You came to my attention again during the blurry week following the
  murders. In response to the appalling delay of the US State Department
  to fly the bodies home from Caracas, the families received word that the
  Office of the Vice President was trying to arrange Air Force transport.
  I wondered at that time if you remembered meeting Terence. I was hopeful
  that your personal connection to the U'wa struggle would expedite the
  process of getting their bodies home. Unfortunately, it was almost a
  week later before we met the United cargo plane in Los Angeles carrying
  Terence's body box.

  Seven months later, I read the Wall Street Journal's account of your
  family's lucrative inheritance from your father of Occidental Petroleum
  and Occidental subsidiary stock and your long-standing personal
  relationship with Occidental directors (9/29/99, editorial page). By
  then I had experienced several such smacks of political double speak
  from most actors in the Colombian debate. In Washington, Representative
  Gilman used the murders of the three American human rights workers as a
  "wake up call" for the United States to increase military assistance to
  the Colombian military, despite that military's abysmal human rights
  record spanning four decades of escalating civil war during which guns
  held by any side have never proven a viable means toward peaceful
  resolution (see Washington Post editorial page, May 22, 1999). In
  Bogota, on September 21, 1999, the Colombian Minister of Environment
  Juan Mayr --- himself a former Goldman Environmental Prize winner --- issued
  the license for Occidental Petroleum to proceed with drilling the oil
  under U'wa land. To justify his action, he claimed the
  constitutionally-required community consent process and environmental
  review complete, despite the fact that the U'wa community continues to
  voice its vehement opposition and have been privy to no such process of
  environmental review. In Los Angeles, on April 30, 1999, at Occidental
  Petroleum headquarters, Public Relations Officer Larry Meriage held
  Terence's mother's hand, calling the guerrilla murderers atrocious,
  despite the fact that his company's incipient oil operations in U'wa
  land are directly responsible for the intensification of violent
  conflict in the previously peaceful region. Even given this prevalent
  political milieu, in which action wildly contradicts expressed values, I
  am appalled and disheartened to see you, America's lead environmental
  champion, living the  antithesis of your espoused values by continuing
  to personally profit from Occidental Petroleum's exploits.

   I am the same age as your daughter. Terence was one year our junior.
  Like your daughter, Terence and I looked forward to joining the legal
  profession together. We were eager to apply the conflict resolution and
  community organizing skills we have gained abroad to help address the
  wealth of environmental justice conflicts brewing domestically. Like
  your daughter, Terence and I had a bright future. With unbearable
  anguish, his family and friends buried him on his twenty-fifth birthday
  last spring. Think how much brighter your family's prospects, as you
  enter the candidacy, if you removed the shadow cast by your family's
  complicity in the unspeakable horrors faced by our family and those of
  the U'wa because of Occidental Petroleum.

  I implore you to divest your family from Occidental Petroleum and answer
  the requests from the U'wa Defense Working Group, a coalition of
  US-based environmental and human rights organizations, to explain your
  position on that company's actions in the U'wa territory of Colombia.
  Further, I beseech you to engage your peers in Washington, at the
  development banks, in Bogota, and the private sector in the sincere
  pursuit of alternatives to military escalation and natural resource
  exploitation as the means to address Colombia's economic woes. Guns and
  oil have never spelled sustainable development or peace. Measures such
  as debt swaps and demonstrated multilateral commitment to Colombia's
  locally-driven social and economic development would move the country
  closer to these goals. Don't let your silence on the U'wa-Occidental
  conflict --- an emblem of the wider sustainable development debate you
  champion --- continue to corrode the standards you set for the American
  public with Earth in the Balance.

  Look again at what stirred you to work for the earth in the first place.
  Take a minute from your campaign, go to the forest, any forest. Take a
  walk alone. Feel the pulse of your heart beating in time with that of
  the rivers running. Feel the soil underfoot, like your muscles
  stretching, resilient and alive. Breathe in the blessing of being alive.
  Think of Terence and the U'wa working to defend that basic human right,
  of life. Think of the Colombian military last week forcibly removing
  U'wa families from their ancestral and legally owned land to provide
  armed and protected access to Occidental's equipment and staff houses.
  Think of the newly granted US budget for this very Colombian military,
  the largest sum given in history, making Colombia the third largest
  recipient of US military aid. Think twice about where you have chosen to
  put not only your family's money, but that of the taxpayer as well.

  Vice President Gore, you should have my vote and that of virtually all
  of my peers. We are young doctors, ecologists, policy analysts,
  teachers, historians, artists, journalists, public officials,
  development workers, and lawyers. We work for environmental and social
  justice. We should be your constituency. I urge you to demonstrate to us
  that you deserve it.


  Abby Reyes