Colombian tribe threaten mass suicide to stop oil exploration

Feb 18, 1997 01:00 AM

Feb. 1, 1997 About 4,000 member of the U-wa tribe in Colombia have threatened to commit mass suicide if oil exploration takes place on their ancestral lands. The indigenous community considers that drilling for oil inflicts wounds on "Mother Earth" that could have deadly consequences not only for the tribe, but for the whole of humanity, said Jose Cobaria, a spokesman for the U-wa. The Supreme Court is due to rule in coming days on the validity of an authorisation the Environment Ministry issued for oil exploration by Oxy, a branch of the US company Occidental, to start in indigenous territory on the border with Venezuela. Multinational oil companies are already active in the areas surrounding the tribal territory."All honourable men and women understand that the path to one follows by causing wounds to mother Earth is a deadly one," Cobaria said, warning that members of the U-wa tribe may be left with no other alternative than collective suicide if drilling goes ahead. He issued an appeal for help from the international community, "so that they help the white man understand the meaning of the life of the people and animals" who live on the tribal lands.

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