Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in Colombia Al Gedicks

Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in Colombia
Al Gedicks
Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
3rd largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, after Israel and Egypt
$3 billion in U.S. military aid since Plan Colombia began in 2000
the largest US embassy in the world
more than 20 US-based companies share $178 million per year in contracts
much of the war has been privatized – Lockheed Martin, Northrop
Grumman, TRW, Monsanto, Dyn Corp, providing security forces,
surveillance of insurgent movements and drug interdiction
300,000 died by violence in the last decade
2 million refugees
85% of the civilian killings occur at the hands of the armed forces or the
Civil War in Colombia
Guerrilla Armies
(FARC peasant rebels,
ELN worker rebels)
Some worker’s unions
Coca growers
(small peasant farmers)
Opponents of foreign
ownership of resources
Caught in Middle
Indian tribes (U’wa)
Government Army
(U.S. arms, trains)
Peace communities
Church human rights
Judges, lawyers,
journalists, etc.
Paramilitary groups
(death squads allied
with army)
Cocaine traffickers
Multinational oil & mining
Civil War in Colombia
Neo-Liberal Economic Policies in Colombia
Tariffs and customs reduced on imported food from the US
Between 1992 and 1999 annual crops on over 2 million acres were abandoned as
agricultural imports jumped from 800,000 tons in 1990 to 3 million in 1995, to 7
million in 1999
As small peasant producers were driven out of business by cheap food imports,
many shifted to illicit coca cultivation as their only way to survive in the new rural
During the 1980s, major oil, coal and gold discoveries were made, leading to an
increase in multinational corporations’ investments in rural areas.
Colombian Constitution of 1991 recognizes the rights of native peoples and
communities in regard to territory, politics, economic development, administration
and social and cultural rights.
In 1992, as oil and mining companies assumed a larger role in the Colombian
economy, the country enacted a new Mining Code which is a fundamental assault on
the collective identity of indigenous people.
In 1992 Colombia became the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere.
Oil/Mining Projects
Exxon’s giant El Cerrejon coal mine: the largest coal mine in Latin America, located in the
Dept. of Guajira on the lands of the Wayuu, Colombia’s largest group of native people.
In January 2002, Intercor (Exxon-Colombia joint venture) sent over 200 soldiers to evict
residents of the village of Tabaco from their homes to make way for the mine’s expansion.
Loma coal mine, the 2nd largest mine, in the northern province of Cesar, owned by the
Birmingham, Alabama-based Drummond Corp. In March 2002, the Mining and Energy
Industry Workers Union of Colombia filed a federal suit in Birmingham against the company
and its owner, Gary Drummond.
The suit alleges that Drummond hired paramilitaries to kidnap, torture and kill 3 union
Since major oil discoveries by British Petroleum and the Los Angeles-based Occidental
Petroleum (Oxy) at Cano Limon in the mid 1980s, surrounding towns have tripled in
population and displaced thousands of native peoples.
Since 1984 there have been over 500 pipeline bombings by the National Liberation Army
The Colombian government has responded by “militarizing” these areas and terrorizing the
local population, whom they presume to be guerrilla supporters. In 1996, the army
assigned 3,000 troops to the area surrounding BP’s Cusiana installations.
Colombia – Territorios Indígenas y Petróleo
US News and World Report, February 10, 2003
US News and World Report, February 10, 2003
US News and World Report, February 10, 2003
Earth First!, March-April 2000
Independent Native Journal, v.54 no. 7, p. 3A
Wall Street Journal, June 7, 1999
Oil & Gas Journal, November 19, 1999
Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2002
New York Times, August 16, 2001
New York Times October 4, 2002
New York Times, October 4, 2002
Colombia’s War on Drugs?
40% of the drug trade is controlled by the right-wing paramilitaries
2.5% controlled by the FARC rebels
(Colombian government estimate, 2001)
Where is Plan Colombia’s drug eradication program focused?
– Drug areas controlled by the paramilitaries (Carlos Castano and the
Henao-Montoya group)
– Oil-rich Amazon region controlled by the FARC
Almost all victims of massacres, forced displacements have been either peasant,
indigenous or Afro-Colombian populations
(International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 2002)
New York Times October 21, 2004
New York Times October 21, 2004
New York Times October 22, 2004
Independent Native Journal, Late May, 2002
Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in Colombia
Al Gedicks
Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse