Subject: Columbian Environmental Protections and Indigenous Rights Under Siege
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6/27/99
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by EE
Columbia's government has moved to abolish environmental licensing and 
impact assessment requirements.  Such a move impoverishes future 
generations for temporary economic gains based upon ecosystem 
liquidations.  Please take the time to respond to Rainforest Action 
Network's request for emails on the matter.
g.b.

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Title:   Colombian Environmental Protections and Indigenous Rights
         Under Siege 
Source:  Rainforest Action Network
         http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/aa/uwa_990616.html.htm 
Status:  Distribute freely with credit given to source 
Date:    June 16, 1999 

In a step that threatens indigenous peoples' rights and territories, 
members of the Colombian government have moved to abolish many of the 
licenses and impact assessments required for mineral, oil, logging and
hydroelectric projects.

Colombia's fragile ecosystem and the rights of Colombia's indigenous 
peoples, the latter which have been procured through decades of 
struggle and martyrdom, are under attack from members of the 
government of President Andres Pastrana and of the Colombian Congress 
who are attempting to eliminate these important environmental 
licensing procedures.

In recent weeks the president of Colombia has enacted a presidential 
decree which threatens to significantly weaken the licensing and 
impact assessments required by the nation's Ministry of the 
Environment for mineral, oil, logging and hydroelectric projects. This 
move appears to be aimed at appeasing transnational corporations which 
are very critical of environmental and social requirements regulating 
their resource extraction schemes. Now members of Congress are working 
to pass the decree into more permanent legislation. The licensing 
procedure as it has stood has helped to safeguard the constitutionally 
and internationally sanctioned rights of Colombia's indigenous 
communities to cultural, physical and territorial integrity. It 
requires a study of the consequences of projects on local ecosystems 
and communities as well as consultation with affected groups.

"If the licensing procedure is eliminated, it will strip indigenous 
communities of the legal tools we need to defend our security, our 
culture and the habitat which sustains us. This is unconstitutional 
and illegal," explains Ebaristo Tegria, legal advisor for the U'wa
people of Colombia's northeastern cloud forest. It was the U'wa 
community that three U.S. indigenous rights leaders - Terence Freitas, 
29, Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39, and Ingrid Washinawatok - were visiting last 
February when they were abducted and murdered by Colombian guerrillas. 
They join a long list of Colombian indigenous leaders who have been 
assassinated in the struggle to uphold indigenous sovereignty.

The U'wa and leaders from a majority of Colombia's some 80 indigenous 
pueblos have asked international organizations and individuals 
concerned about indigenous rights, biodiversity, human rights, 
ecological balance and cultural sovereignty to pressure the Colombian 
government and Congress to uphold the environmental licensing 
procedures.

                      What You Can Do!

Your voice can have an impact. One minute of your time can make a 
difference. Please send an email to the following Colombian official 
today (and a copy to RAN at BeyondOil@ran.org.)

Presidente Andres Pastrana
pastrana@presidencia.gov.co
Presidente de la Republica Colombiana

Shannon Wright
BeyondOil@ran.org
Rainforest Action Network

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