New evidence has surfaced in a Colombian government inquiry exposing active
collaboration between security forces protecting oil operations of the Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and the notorious Colombian military in one of the country' deadliest attacks on civilians.
Led by Colombia's Attorney General, the ongoing civil disciplinary
investigation into the Santo Domingo massacre of 1998 calls for the subpoena of three American pilots working for AirScan, a private security firm based in the US and contracted by OXY to protect oil operations since 1997.
According to testimony from Colombian military officials, AirScan provided
key strategic information to the Colombian military gathered during their security work for OXY and helped coordinate the air attack using the plane's infrared and video equipment to pinpoint targets on the ground. While allegedly targeting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a left-wing guerilla group. The attack actually killed 18 civilians, nine of which were children.
OXY's Colombian operations continue to be embroiled in controversy and are
a magnet for violence. The company is currently proceeding with exploratory drilling on the ancestral homeland of the U'wa - an indigenous community of 5,000 who live in the northeastern province of Colombia and who have been
peacefully resisting oil exploitation since 1992.
OXY came under fire last year when the company called on the military and
riot police to break up a non-violent road blockade of the road leading to OXY's drill site. Three indigenous children died in the attack and scores were seriously injured. The U'wa continue to call for the end of U.S. military aid to Colombia and the cancellation of OXY's project.
"It is essential that US companies be held accountable for their involvement in human rights violations in Colombia. Whether it's the invasion of the U'wa people's land or implication in the Santo Domingo massacre, OXY has shown they are a lawless corporation. We call upon the US government to support the inquiry and reveal its connections with OXY in Colombia," says Patrick Reinsborough, Organizing Director of the Rainforest Action Network based in the United States.
Occidental Petroleum has lobbied aggressively for increased U.S. military
aid to Colombia since 1996 when it helped to found the US-Colombia Business Partnership a coalition of multinationals such as British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Enron with operations in Colombia.
The company's ties to the Colombian military and other armed factions were
revealed before the US Congress when OXY Vice President of Public Affairs, Larry Meriage testified that employees are "regularly shaken down" by both the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups and "required to pay a 'war tax' to both or
they will not be able to work."
Human rights and environmental groups have highlighted the connection
between oil development and militarization for years. OXY pays $1 on every barrel of oil produced, which goes directly to the military. One in four Colombian soldiers are currently devoted to protecting oil installations. OXY estimates that ten percent of the company's in country budget is spent on security costs.
SOURCES: "Americans blamed in Colombia raid," by Karl Penhaul, San Francisco Chronicle, June 15 2001; "Oil Company Threatening U'wa People Implicated in Infamous Santo Domingo Massacre," Press Release, Rainforest Action Network, Project Underground, Amazon Watch, June 22, 2001
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