rn: U’wa- Nov.letter to Gore from Abby Reyes (& Nader’s implication in U’wa situation)


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

Perhaps you remember the letter from Abby Reyes to Al Gore which I sent you
on Feb. 5, 2000. A letter to ask Al Gore to think twice about no only where
he was investing his own money, but the taxpayers' money as well (re: Gore
investment in Oxy Petroleum Co. & massive military aid to the Colombian
government). A letter I found beautifully moving.

Here is another letter from Abby Reyes. While the letter is addressed to Al
Gore, it speaks to all of us. We all know that writing to people like Gore
will not bring the changes we need. But writing to Gore and copying the rest
of the world can certainly help!

all the best, Jan
PS I am also including a posting about Nader's apparent hypocrisy over this
issue. I do this reluctantly as I am profoundly grateful for Nader's
campaign. And I hope and expect he will find a way to divest himself of any
interest in Oxy, as it seems he does indeed have investments in that company.
From: Patrick Reinsborough <•••@••.•••>
Subject: UWA-  letter to VP Gore from girlfriend of slain U'wa activist
Terence Freitas
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2000 00:31:09 -0800

Abbey Reyes is the girlfriend of Terence Freitas who was kidnapped and
murdered from U'wa territory in March of 1999.  She has continued to
support the U'wa but wrote this letter as a concerned individual rather
than the representative of any organization.
- Patrick, RAN

October 31, 2000

The Honorable Al Gore
Vice President
Office of the Vice President, OEOB
Washington, DC 20501

Dear Vice President Gore:

Thank you for responding to my letter regarding the various roles you
personally play in the Colombian indigenous U’wa community’s struggle
against Occidental Petroleum. I appreciate your condolences on Terence’s
assassination for serving the U’wa in that struggle. I have passed on the
heartfelt sentiment to his family.

Please know that I was conflicted in writing this reply letter. To raise
this issue again may add a drop of encouragement and incentive for you to
take action on behalf of the U’wa. On the other hand, raising this issue
again, at this juncture, may contribute a drop, albeit small, to the growing
torrent of discontent whose sudden weight now threatens to tip the scales in
a way that could ultimately spell an even more bleak future for the U’wa and
most other marginalized communities at home and abroad. I choose to reply
now regardless.  I single you out as a focus for this solicitation not
solely because of your late father’s estate or your family’s 30 year
relationship with Occidental. I single you out because, contrary to the
seasoned analysis from most of my colleagues,  I continue to believe that a
leader with your expressed values and sensibility wants to do better by the
earth, and can. Please read this reply from that vantage.

I thought about your letter recently while listening to you stress your
commitment to protecting the “environmental treasures of our country” from
domestic oil production and your determination “to fight for all the people,
not just the few.” Your words caused my imagination to stretch from Alaska
to northeastern Colombia, where Colombian troops encircle a patch of
disputed land, keeping the unarmed indigenous people and farmers who own
that land outside, in order to protect the movements of a US oil company
within. In your letter, you convey that you are “deeply concerned about the
U’wa” and that the highest levels of leadership within the Colombian
government “understand our concerns.” I believe you are sincerely concerned.
However, juxtaposed with both your public silence and your administration’s
very loud contrary actions of military escalation in Colombia, I find your
words of concern on the U’wa issue difficult to accept at face value.

My concern is the social genocide taking place in the Colombian countryside,
against which the U’wa community’s struggle to protect their land from oil
exploitation has become a popular symbol of resistance. This social genocide
is being carried out under the banner of globalization, from economic
policies marginalizing poor farmers to the hoarding of land by Colombian
elites speculating on the promise of mega-project developments. Greatly
aiding this social genocide, which has also produced more than 2 million
internally displaced Colombians, is the legal and extra-legal armed
conflict. My concern is that the US version of Plan Colombia, under the
banner of the drug war, ties extensive military aid to Colombia’s
willingness to open it’s petroleum resources to foreign corporations. As
such, Plan Colombia amplifies that movement swiftly changing the face of the
agrarian landscape, providing perfect circumstances for an oil company, once
again, to use the chaos of war to settle in, as indigenous communities such
as the U’wa are wiped off the map in the process.

I understand that it may have been difficult to raise such concerns with the
Colombian government, given your administration’s role in tailoring Plan
Colombia and Occidental’s similar role as one of Plan Colombia’s most
aggressive private sector advocates. You have said that you “will be
watching this situation every step of the way.” I am afraid that perhaps,
contrary to your best intention, you may have missed some important markers
in the U’wa case. Throughout last spring and summer, while the legal status
of the oil project fluctuated in Colombian courts, the U’wa were joined by
thousands of students, clergy, farmers unions, national legislators, local
Occidental workers, and other natives of Colombia and Ecuador to
non-violently protest Occidental’s militarized construction activities and
the political milieu Plan Colombia set to condone such aggressions. At the
same time in Washington, 25 Members of Congress co-signed a letter to
President Pastrana calling for him “to halt construction of the well site
until [his] administration can guarantee that this project will violate
neither the U’wa peoples’ fundamental human rights nor the environment upon
which their lives depend.” More recently, a delegation of European
parliamentarians went to the drill site itself to monitor the situation.

None of these actions, however, has succeeded in preventing the escalation
of armed violence in the zone and attempted legal manipulation of the
community. Last month, in a move to ease the requirements to begin drilling,
the Colombian government illegally changed the zoning of the U’wa land. A
few days later, U’wa leaders presented the government with archival evidence
of colonial titles for that land from 1661. These 14 “Royal Land Deeds,”
issued by the King of Spain, recognize the pre-existing rights of indigenous
people in Colombia, including claims to sub-surface resources – claims which
later Colombian laws uphold. When met with this documentation, the Colombian
national ministers sat in silence. They had no reply. Their reply came
implicitly two weeks later, when Colombia poured massive military resources
into protection of the final move of Occidental’s equipment into place for

It is often said that, despite your concern about this issue, your hands are
tied. It’s your mother’s Occidental stock. You are not the trustee. I try
not to imagine what tied hands look like. Terence’s wrists were bound with
rope when they shot him. It sounds as though the corporate hold tying your
hands may have a similar texture to the weave. The difference is, of course,
that that which binds you is a figure of speech. To underscore my conviction
that freeing one’s self from that voluntary bondage is prerequisite to
working for peace, or for being the champion of anything as noble as
environmental treasures and all people, I offer you an image I have of
Terence during the week of the abduction.

I have an image of  Terence captive in the cloud forest being walked toward
the Venezuelan boarder. At a certain moment, he turned his energy inward to
himself, paying detailed attention to breathing in and breathing out. He was
walking himself through the process of balancing all accounts, living
forgiveness, and actively invoking compassion. I have an image of him coming
to face the bullets with that compassion intact, flowing freely into the
blood soaked earth.  I ask myself daily whether I am living in a way that is
worthy of my freedom, that which was taken abruptly from Terence and his
colleagues, and that which is being taken systematically from the U’wa and
other local peoples in Colombia in the name of oil poorly camouflaged under
the banner of economic globalization and the war on drugs.

I invite you to practice walking yourself through this self-examination.
Take inspiration from a source meaningful in your own life. The national
leader I am looking for exhibits the fruits of this contemplation through
acute awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, with political action
underpinned by and consistent with this principle. Environmental treasures
and all people. Alaska, a Colombian cloud forest. US consumers, South
American indigenous elders. Interconnected. Looking deeply in this way may
awaken your understanding that,  despite the contrary rules of the global
marketplace in which you maneuver, this age-old premise of interconnection
continues to fuel the political action of peoples’ movements to defend
human, biological, and knowledge diversity at the base of this country and
around the globe. Models for that kind of ethical leadership exist. I want
to believe that you aspire to be that kind of leader. Taking action on
behalf of this obscure community in a country whose name most of us
northerners have trouble spelling might provide you good practice.

Your power to influence the outcome of the U’wa crisis extends beyond your
professed impotence regarding the Occidental stock your father put in trust
for your mother. Your father served that company for close to three decades.
You, in many ways, carry the legacy of your father. You have acted, perhaps,
with respect to this company in the way you remember your father having
acted. I am calling on you to do even better than your father did. Recognize
the things he did well in his career of public service. Honor those acts.
Also recognize the things he did not do so well. Acknowledge to yourself the
role he played, as a shareholder and corporate executive, in creating
suffering in the places aversely affected by that company and its
subsidiaries during his tenure, including Love Canal, including the U’wa
territory.  Commit yourself to doing better than your father did.

In the best circumstances, each generation builds on where the last
generation left off – both within a family and within a nation. You are in a
prime position, in your family and in your nation, to do better. Those of us
young people watching you move through this moment silent on the U’wa issue
are, in many ways, your continuation. We would rather build upon your good
acts than have to take up the mantle from where your father’s generation
left off. We do not want to inherit a model of environmental leadership
stuck in the last generation. I am calling on you to make different choices.
Use the crisis on U’wa land as an opportunity to do what you genuinely know
is right to do. I am calling on your daughters and wife to support you in
this effort. I am calling on the brothers and sisters of our nation to bear
witness and to support you should you choose to act on behalf of the U’wa

I stand firmly rooted in compassion for the fear and stress you must endure
as a leader of this country. I stand firmly rooted as witness of that
unfathomable terror that strikes when one realizes the hands are tied. I
stand firmly rooted in the belief that liberation from those bonds is not
only possible, but necessary for the continuation of life. It’s a metaphor,
and it’s real. It is anything but a platitude. You have a duty. Please step
up to it.


Abby Reyes

From: Patrick Reinsborough <•••@••.•••>
Subject: U'wa : Salon.com exposes Nader's investments (including Oxy)
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2000 16:47:10 -0800

Inside Nader's stock portfolio
                         A recent financial statement shows the Green Party
                         invests in companies he rails against -- including
Dick Cheney's
                         former employers.

                         - - - - - - - - - - - -
                         By Jake Tapper

                         Oct. 28, 2000 | MADISON, Wis. -- Supporters of
Green Party
                         candidate Ralph Nader are angrily lining the
streets on the way
                         to a rally for Vice President Al Gore. They hold up
                         signs, looking scornfully at the motorcade that
passes by.

                         Lefties like to bash Gore for being a tool of
                         America. More specifically, Gore incurs their wrath
                         the trust of his mother, Pauline, owns stock in
                         Petroleum which, according to Nader running mate
                         LaDuke, "is working to exploit oil reserves under
U'wa land in
                         Colombia." The U'wa are an indigenous tribe in
Colombia, and
                         became the champions of an anti-Gore rally at the
                         National Convention.

                         "As I listen to the vice president espouse his
                         views on campaign finance reform, I look at
                         his investment portfolio and have to ask how
                         that might influence public policy," LaDuke
                         has said, slamming Gore erroneously for
                         "own[ing] substantial stock in Occidental Oil

                         If LaDuke is looking for Occidental
                         stockholders to criticize, she might want to
                         look a little closer to home. In the financial
                         disclosure form Nader filed on June 14, the
                         Green Party presidential candidate revealed that he
                         between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in
                         Fidelity Magellan Fund. The fund controls 4,321,400
shares of
                         Occidental Petroleum stock.

                         The Rainforest Action Network -- whose members no
                         include myriad Nader Raiders -- has slammed
Fidelity for
                         "investing in genocide," and called for the fund to
divest its
                         Occidental holdings.

                         "The Occidental projects are so beyond the pale
about what's
                         reasonable and moral in this modern era," says
                         Reinsborough, grass-roots coordinator for the
                         Action Network. Reinsborough says that his group
has been
                         primarily targeting Gore and Fidelity Investments
in general,
                         Fidelity Magellan being part of the Fidelity
Investments mutual
                         funds network, as well as the one with the largest
quantity of
                         Occidental stock. "We have called upon Ralph
Nader -- as we
                         would call upon any citizen -- to either divest
from Fidelity or
                         to participate in shareholder activism,"
Reinsborough says.
                         "Gore has much more long-standing links to

                         But even if Fidelity were to divest its holdings in
Occidental, it
                         holds shares in so many companies Nader has
                         against, it's hard to escape the conclusion that
                         participation in the fund is supremely
hypocritical. The fund, for
                         example, owns stock in the Halliburton Company,
                         George W. Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney,
                         worked as president and COO. The fund has
investments in
                         supremely un-p.c. clothiers the Gap and the
Limited, both of
                         which have been the target of rocks by World Trade
                         Organization protesters, as well as Wal-Mart, the
slayer of
                         mom-and-pop stores from coast to coast.

                         Nader spokeswoman Laura Jones says that only the
                         himself can answer questions about his personal
                         Nader could not be reached for comment.

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