Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in Colombia
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Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in Colombia Al Gedicks Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Colombia. 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

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Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in ColombiaAl GedicksProfessor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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  • 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 paramilitaries

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Civil War in Colombia

Caught in Middle

Indian tribes (U’wa)

Peace communities

Church human rights workers

Judges, lawyers, journalists, etc.


Government Army(U.S. arms, trains)

Paramilitary groups(death squads allied with army)

Cocaine traffickers

Multinational oil & mining corporations


Guerrilla Armies (FARC peasant rebels, ELN worker rebels)

Some worker’s unions

Coca growers(small peasant farmers)

Opponents of foreign ownership of resources

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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 economy.

  • 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.

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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 leaders.

  • 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 (ELN)

  • 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.

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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)

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Oil, Violence, and Ethnocide in ColombiaAl GedicksProfessor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse