STATEMENT ON COLOMBIAN KILLINGS OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
The Midwest Treaty Network deplores the March 4 murders of Menominee Nation member Ingrid Washinawatok, Hawai'ian sovereignty activist Lahe'ena'e Gay, and California environmental organizer Terence Freitas. The three had been visiting U'wa communities in Colombia threatened by U.S. oil development, in order to help start an indigenous school system. They were kidnapped by Colombian gunmen on their way home, and on March 4 were slain along the Arauca River in Venezuela.
Our hearts go out to the families of these three activists, and for the great loss suffered by the Menominee Nation and the Hawai'ian Nation. We knew Ingrid as a strong woman with a special sense of humor and commitment. She and the two others had previously experienced conditions of repression and civil war, and fully understood the risks of travelling in Colombia. But they chose to do so because they did not want to see another indigenous community alone and isolated in the face of an environmental threat to its cultural survival.
Ingrid, La'he, and Terry also understood that indigenous and environmental concerns do not stop at the Rio Grande, but extend to all the peoples of the Americas. Our group, the Midwest Treaty Network, was founded a decade ago to conduct a Witness for Nonviolence in defense of Ojibwe treaty rights during the Wisconsin spearfishing conflict. The effort was modelled by one of our founders, Walter Bresette, on a similar witness defending indigenous refugees in Guatemala. He understood that we could learn from Central and South Americans how to create peace and justice in our own backyard. Losing Ingrid in the same month as Walter is a terrible blow to Wisconsin supporters of sovereignty and the environment, and stands as a challenge to continue their work.
In our current campaign, helping to stop the proposed Crandon mine along the Wolf River, we have worked with Colombian indigenous peoples. The first president of the mining company previously ran the El Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, which violated the rights of the Wayuu Nation. Ingrid's assassination will increase our efforts to protect the Wolf River, which runs through her Menominee homeland.
*We support indigenous and family investigations into the killings, in particular by the families, by the Menominee Nation, by inernational human rights activists such as Rigoberta Menchu, and by Colombian human rights groups. We demand that any governmental investigations not be distorted into calls for greater U.S. military involvement, armed retaliation for the three deaths, or any violations of Colombian or U'wa sovereignty.
*We call on the perpetrators of the three murders to be brought to justice in an independent setting--free from political agendas, public relations spins, or the use of the death penalty. Any form of justice must be observed and verified by indigenous representatives and human rights organizations, or it will simply be interpreted as a cover-up of the truth. We call on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the Colombian, Venezuelan, or U.S. governments, to submit any apprehended suspects to independent interrogation by indigenous and human rights group representatives of the three families.
*We call on a withdraw of Occidental Petroleum from U'wa lands, and a suspension of U.S. arms sales and military training to Colombia. Whoever is ultimately found responsible for pulling the trigger, it is clear that oil exploration by the Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum, and U.S. military assistance to the Colombian military, created the situation that led to the deaths of the three activists. Oil, guns, and money have destabilized Arauca province, just as the cocaine trade has created violence elsewhere in Colombia.
*We call on the Colombian government and FARC to resume peace talks, and to recognize the U'wa interest in protecting their ancestral homeland. We call on the North American people and U.S. government to help end the war that has claimed so many Colombian lives. Our three friends would have wanted their deaths to further the peace process, rather than to deepen the civil war.
*We offer any support necessary to find the truth, and to assuage the loss to the families. We urge supporters of sovereignty and the environment to contribute to the Ingrid Washinawatok Trust Fund, PO Box 910, Keshena, WI 54135.
Midwest Treaty Network http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/ingrid.html
Indigenous Environmental Network http://www.ienearth.org/colombia.html
National Indian Telecommunications Institute http://www.niti.org
Colombia Support Network http://www.igc.apc.org/csn/
U'wa Defense Working Group http://uwa.moles.org
Rainforest Action Network http://www.ran.org
March 11, 1999
The Indigenous Environmental Network expresses its deep sense of loss over the death squad style execution of three activists on a cultural education outreach visit to the U'wa tribe within their ancestral territory in Colombia, South America. We are calling for a prompt international investigation into actions of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which went on record on March 10, 1999 for taking responsibility for the March 4, 1999 murder of Ingrid Washinawatok, co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network, Lahe'ena'e Gay, chair of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International, and Terence Freitas, coordinator with the U'wa Defense Working Group. As part of this investigation, we are also requesting the investigation include the roles of the Colombian military and allied paramilitaries, Occidental Petroleum, and the U.S. State Department whose historical and current actions may have contributed to the violence in Colombia as well as specific actions that contributed to these deaths. We also demand an immediate end to all U.S. assistance to the Colombian military and security forces, including training and drug eradication efforts.
These three brave activists gave their lives defending the rights of the U'wa to live their lives as they have since time immemorial, free from the genocidal devastation of oil drilling on their lands and the intimidation and terror of Colombian military and paramilitary forces. We must insure that their lives were not given in vain, and therefore demand that Occidental Petroleum withdraw its application to drill on ancestral U'wa lands. Even in light of FARC taking responsibility of the murders, many questions remain and this issue isn't yet resolved.
We wish to thank United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson for her prompt efforts condemning the brutal murders of the three human rights activists and her urging authorities to fully investigate the murders and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call upon her office to either conduct or insure for the monitoring of an independent and thorough investigation into this matter.
There remains the strong possibility that these human rights activists were killed in retaliation for the overall policies and historical actions of a government which has been the enemy of indigenous peoples of Colombia. This underscores the need at the international level to allow indigenous peoples to define their status with regard to the nation states which have continually usurped them by adopting the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in full and without modification. We call on the United States in particular to end its efforts at the international level to obstruct adoption of the Draft Declaration and acknowledge the inherent rights of all indigenous peoples to full self-determination.
Colombia has the worst human rights status of any nation in the Western Hemisphere today. Politically motivated killings in Colombia range from 3,000 to 4,000 a year. Environmental, indigenous and human rights activists know the growing oil infrastructure in Colombia has acted as a magnet for violence. The U'wa tribal peoples believe that oil is the blood of their mother and is viewed as sacred. Too much human blood has been spilled by those who see it as merely a source of profit. Perhaps this incident could bring light to the need for investigation and action to stop this violence against the indigenous peoples and all people and visitors of Colombia and the Americas.
Indigenous Environmental Network - National Office
STATEMENT FROM JULIE FREITAS
To the Colombian and international media, to goverments worldwide, to non-governmental representatives of the international community, and to youth everywhere.
I have received the latest news accounts reporting that leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas have attributed the killings of my son Terence Freitas, 24, Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, and Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39, to a local rebel commander.
I stress emphatically that the family members and friends of Terence are not interested in any more bloodshed in Colombia. I understand the FARC frequently administer internal justice in cases like these by executing those allegedly responsible. I beg the FARC leaders not to destroy any more young lives. I do not want any mother to have to experience what I have experienced with the tragic loss of my son. If members of the FARC are indeed responsible, I would like to talk with them about the roots of their anger, about the source of this rage that prompted them to commit such a senseless act - the killings of people they obviously knew not enough about. I would like them to know that my son worked passionately in his short and tragically interrupted life to bring peace and tolerance and life to Colombia, following the example of the U'wa, the "thinking people."
I have learned from the U'wa elders that my son Terence sent his spirit to them in a dream this week. In this dream, Terence gave the elders a snail shell, which to the U'wa symbolizes peace and problem solving. Let this urgent plea from my son spread from the sacred land of the U'wa, from Kajka Ika, the heart of the world, throughout Colombia, throughout the international community. Let people everywhere respond to this tragedy by working to bring peace to Colombia so that communities like the U'wa may continue to preserve human life and the dignity of the land.
Before his death, Terence helped write a report about the U'wa people called, "Blood of Our Mother." The report prophetically states: "Colombian President-elect Andres Pastrana has a tremendous opportunity in this crisis. A promising peace process between the guerrillas and the government may allow the space for cooler heads to prevail. Human rights may yet triumph over multinational corporate interests." Following my son's example, I request:
Yours in peace,
Mother of Terence Freitas
March 12, 1999
To the people of Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa
We thank you for sharing with us the life of Ingrid Washinawatok. She was a member of the Third World Coalition Program Committee (1990 - 93). We experienced her as a loving mother to Maehki and wife to Ali. We saw the woman that worked ceaselessly for the rights of Indigenous people. We appreciated the patience she had with those of us who were learning of the struggles that were her life. We saw the attentive mother play with her child. We listened when she passionately asked for support in denouncing the misuse of Indian symbols by fans at football games as disrespectful to the traditions of Indigenous peoples. We learned from her other ways we might work with Indian people to stop further destruction of their rights as we shared with her the struggles of our various communities of color to make our lives also, more human.
We have all lost a loving and valiant sister, daughter, mother, wife, mentor, indomitable spirit, leader, comrade and all the other roles Ingrid Washinawatok was in our lives and the lives of many; but in death, she has given us the opportunity and the challenge to make her vision of a better more harmonious world real. Ingrid we thank you. We will try to live the expectations you had of yourself and us.
* * * *
Following is a letter which was sent to President Clinton regarding the murders of Ingrid Wahinawatok, Lahe'ena'a Gay and Terence Freitas in Colombia on March 5, 1999.
American Friends Service Committee
March 16, 1999
President William Clinton
Dear President Clinton:
We are deeply saddened by the murders of Ingrid Washinawatok, Lahe'ena'e Gay and Terence Freitas on the Colombia-Venezuela border on March 5, 1999. Ingrid for many years has been a volunteer and supporter of AFSC's work, particularly with Native Peoples, so these murders touch us in an even more personal way.
Although members of the FARC have now claimed responsibility for this terrible crime, we support the request of the Menominee tribe, to which Ingrid belonged, that the United States investigate our government's actions regarding this case through a Congressional Inquiry. We cannot forget that the three U.S. citizens who were murdered were engaged in support to the Uw'a Tribe in its land dispute with U.S. owned Occidental Petroleum Company. The Uw'a have witnessed the slow and humiliating destruction of other native peoples when their lands were encroached upon, and at one point threatened mass suicide rather than suffer a similar fate. As you acknowledged in your recent visit in Guatemala, the United States government has in the past put its power behind the interest of U.S. corporations, even at the cost of the rights and the lives of local citizens as well as U.S. citizens.
We call upon you and the Congress to reconsider the military and police aid which you have promised to Colombia. It is not a coincidence that the deaths of Ingrid, Lahe' ena'e and Terence occurred as Janet Reno was delivering $230 million in U.S. military and police aid to Colombia. These events underscore the truth that the policies of violence which we promote abroad, affect us as well.
Colombia, with the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, is currently the largest recipient of U.S. military aid anywhere outside of the Middle East. Given the levels of violence and impunity in Colombia, U.S. military policy fuels the fire of a grisly and explosive situation and contributes to the systematic violation of human rights.
Although our government says that its funds are to be used in the drug war, Colombian and U.S. activists have testified on numerous occasions that it is impossible to prevent them being used in the internal war which has been going on in Colombia for some thirty years. The United States should not be involved in escalating this internal struggle.
The American Friends Service Committee is also writing to President Pastrana requesting that there be a full investigation into the murders. We are requesting that the Colombian government name the Human Rights Unit of the Fiscalia to be the coordinating body for the investigation. Additionally we are requesting that the U.S. and Colombian governments cooperate with this investigation and any investigations carried out by international human rights organizations.
These three murders follow upon the murders of 26 Colombian human rights workers since May 1997 and the 3,000 to 4,000 Colombians, mostly civilians, killed as a result of political violence each year. In a national referendum in October 1997, Colombian civil society expressed a clear mandate for peace. We ask you to assure that our government's policy in the region contributes to building that peace.
We believe that the United States government can make a positive contribution in Colombia. We urge you to reassign the funds currently assigned for military and police aid to development and mediation. support a negotiated solution to the internal war, support in non violent ways the reconstruction of the society, support development projects where the beneficiaries participate in the formulation of the projects.
Additionally, we urge you to seek out, support and cooperate with the numerous efforts of Colombian and international non governmental organizations in their work to end the violence and build a more just and peaceful society.
Kara L. Newell
cc. President Andris Pastrana, Republic of Colombia
We the undersigned, representing the Colombian human-rights organizations Association for the Promotion of Social Alternatives (MINGA), the Institute for People's Empowerment (IPC), and the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSSP), and who are now touring the United States to denounce the treats and attacks by paramilitary troops against the human rights defenders in the country
To the international community, the media and the victims' families:
1. Our strong repudiation of the arbitrary detention and subsequent assassination of the indigenous leaders, INGRID WASHINANATOK, LAHE'ENA'E GAY and the recognized defender of the causes of the U'wa people in Colombia, TERENCE FREITAS, perpetrated by the 10th front of FARC-EP.
2. Our great acknowledgement and support for the indigenous communities of the world and the non-governmental organizations that are carrying out the extraordinary efforts to bring respect to the culture, autonomy, the dignity and solidarity of the indigenous people against multinational companies, the governments, the armed forces and the irregular groups that operate in variuous countries of the world.
3. Our urge to FARC-EP to demonstrate through their act their political will to reestablish the rights to justice, to reparation, and to the truth duly owed to the families of the victims, the indigenous communities, and the non-governmental organizations affected by this crime. To this effect, we request that the ones responsible, and/or those presumed responsible for these acts, be turned over to an independent and mpartial court that will ascertain the intellectual and physical authors of this crime and that will apply the fundamental guaranties of due process and the presumption of innocence. We believe that the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General's Office of Colombia is an institution that has demonstrated independence and efficiency in its investigations and that can contribute to bringing about justice.
4. Our resolve to assist in uncovering the truth and to constantly follow up the investigations and criminal process so as to guarantee rights to the victims, of the indigenous communities, as well as of the authors of the crime.
5. Our rejection and repudiation toward assassinations, attacks, and threats against human rights defenders in Colombia as well as our demand that the Colombian government adopt the methods and policies that guarantee the legitimate execution of our work.
6. Our urgent call on the armed actors to respect the civil population's rights to not be involved or be affected by the conflict, and our demand that the insurgent groups, the paramilitary troops, and the military forces of Colombia to cease threats, killings, bombings, displacements, and military occupation of lands belonging to the indigenous communities of Colombia, particularly the Ember� Katios in Urab�, Puinave in Guaviare, Sin� in Cordoba and the U'wa in Arauca y Boyac�.
To the families of Ingrid, Lahe Gay, and Terence, to the indigenous community of North America, and to the U'wa people, our embrace as brothers and sisters in sorrow and in the struggle for justice.
GLOR�A INES FL�REZ SCHNEIDER
JOS� ANTONIO GIR�N
Statement By The Indigenous Women's Network
March 8, l999
RE: Killings of Indigenous Activists
We, the members of the Indigenous Women's Network, address our comments to the world. On February 25, we received word that our sister Ingrid Washinawatok, the Co-Chair of The Indigenous Women's Network and Lahe'ena'e Gay and Terence Freitas, two other members of a humanitarian delegation to the U'wa people of Colombia were kidnapped. It was during the end of their visit that our sisters and brother were kidnapped by hooded men in civilian clothing from the car they were traveling in. The three were part of a delegation that had been invited by the U'wa People to join in prayer and solidarity. The purpose of the trip was to assist the U'wa People in establishing a cultural education system for their children and support the continuation of their traditional way of life.
The morning of March 5, the U.S. Embassy contacted the families of Ingrid, Lahe'ena'e and Terence informing them their bodies had been found in Venezuela about 30 yards from the border of Colombia. They had been bound, blindfolded, beaten, tortured and shot numerous times. It was through Ingrid's credit cards, which were still in her possession that they were able to trace their identity so rapidly.
The Indigenous Women's Network, joining with the Menominee Nation, and other Indigenous Nations, is calling for a full prosecution of those responsible, and an investigation into the actions of the US State Department in reference to this incident. We believe that the US State Department destabilized negotiations and ultimately cost our sisters and brother their lives in a possible attempt to gain financial support for US policies in Colombia.
We attribute this assertion to the fact that exactly during the negotiations for the release of the three humanitarian workers, the US State Department released approximately $230 million in military support for the alleged Anti- Drug War in Colombia. The Colombian government then attacked and killed over 70 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in an orchestrated attack. We believe that these two overt acts may have destabilized any hopes for the release of our sisters and brother.
The U'wa People live in the Arauca province in Northeastern Colombia. The U.S. multi-national oil corporations, Occidental Petroleum and Shell Oil, had been carrying out oil exploration in the area know as the Samore block, the ancestral homelands of the U'wa People. It is estimated that these oil fields hold less than l.5 billion barrels of oil, equating to less than a three month supply for the US. The U'wa people had threatened to commit mass suicide if these oil companies were successful in their exploitive endeavors.
US and Colombian government Officials were prompt to lie blame on the left wing guerrilla forces of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). This situation is not one that blame can be established through words of Government officials without conducting an investigation. It is a much more complex crime.
The reality is that the Indigenous community and the US State Department had both been involved in negotiations for the release of these three humanitarian workers. Apesanahkwat, Chairman of the Menominee Nation was active in attempting to negotiate the release of the hostages as soon as he heard of their capture. "I sent a direct communique to the leadership of FARC two days after she was captured...The FARC leadership had sent a response by e- mail the morning of the hostages' death," Apesanahkwat said.
" They sent greetings to us as a relative indigenous group, and said they were optimistic about seeking her release," he said. Yet, as Apesanahkwat noted, the US government sent money for arms to the Colombian government four or five days after the kidnappings, knowing that those arms might be used against the rebels who may have held the kidnap victims, and that the kidnap victims might well be executed in retaliation. Seventy FARC rebels were killed in a government-led attack just before the kidnap victims were executed.
We, the Indigenous Women's Network join with the Menominee Nation in calling for a Congressional inquiry into the State Department actions in Colombia, with regards to this incident. We also request, on behalf of our sister Ingrid, that her death not be used to forward political ends of the US State Department, but that instead, it be recognized as a crime, a continuation of the Indian wars.
It is a crime against humanity. Against the mothers whose daughters and sons moccasins no longer walk on our Mother Earth. It is a crime against the sane, the Indigenous Peoples and all peaceful citizens of the world. This crime was committed by the insane, the greedy, the corrupt and those that will ignore the exploitive trade agreements which allow and accept these practices as business as usual, all in the name of protecting "National Interests", and subsequently the interests of multinational corporations. We believe that responsibility for these deaths rests with all of these parties.
Ingrid and her companions gave the ultimate sacrifice - their lives - in the struggle for the attainment of human rights for Indigenous Peoples. State Department support will increase the militarization of a country already fraught with one of the highest rates of violence in the Western Hemisphere, and a state continuing violence against Indigenous peoples. It is against violence, and for the life of the people and the land, that Ingrid, and the others stood.
Ingrid as well as her companions viewed the situation of the U'wa as a part of the global struggle for Indigenous self determination as well as the preservation of the natural environment. The deaths of our three companeros must be understood as having a direct relationship to the many thousands of deaths of those who seek human justice not only in Colombia but throughout Latin America and other parts of the world.
We who work for social justice must ensure that further repercussions do not fall on the U'wa community simply because they sought and received international solidarity and support from groups like Project Underground, the Indigenous Women's Network and the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International. The Indigenous Women's Network and others will do our utmost to see that justice is done and that we will continue Ingrid's fight in her support of the U'wa Peoples and all those who work for social justice.
The history of violent repression in Latin America against Indigenous Peoples would lead us to believe that right wing governments, and their death squads supporting the interests of resource companies and those wanting to interrupt the peace process are likely to have been involved in the deaths of our three companeros. We also demand that financial support to the Colombian military be withdrawn until the true facts surrounding the deaths are revealed.
As Women, we are the Mothers of our Nations. We share the responsibility of being life-givers, nurturers and sustainers of life- as Mother Earth is a life giver.
The Indigenous Women's Network is committed to nurturing our children and planting seeds of truth for generations to come. We do not want to repeat past mistakes. We will continue our work to eliminate the oppression of colonization, and to end the Indian wars.
The Indigenous Women's Network demands that the parties responsible for the abduction and execution of Ingrid Washinawatok, Terence Freitas, and Lahe'ena'e Gay, be brought to justice. They must make themselves known and not hide behind the corrupt plunders of those that rape our Mother Earth of her blood and the parties that protect them.
From Cecilia Rodriguez, U.S. representative of the EZLN
Statement by U.S. representative of Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), Mexico
There is a cassette of music I just bought and on it, it says "All over this world, this Indian way is hard." Those words have become engraved in my consciousness. Today they mark my heart with great pain.
I just received word that Ingrid Washinawatok, a North American Menominee Indian who served on the board of the Indigenous Woman's Network, who had a big bright smile and was always laughing, who also cried easily at the many tragedies suffered by Indian people was found dead today somewhere in Colombia. She had been kidnapped. Ingrid did a great deal to help the Zapatistas while she was alive. Many things which most people never knew about, because that is how it is among Indians, you extend your hand without expecting adulation or recognition.
I have no word yet about how or where or when she died. Only the word of her death, and the silent shaking I feel inside. Profuse, hot, quick tears and sobs, because crying is beyond you, when death is so much your friend. You turn suddenly and death is there looking at you, reminding you that she is always with you, always with your people, a shadow, a breeze, a gift sometimes from the constant doubt that causes you to hesitate. "Don't hesitate, do it right" she says "because your life is not forever." And so death is a teacher about what life should be.
The sobs come from imagining her pain at the time of her death--the memories..the barrel of a gun at your temple, the barrel of a gun in your mouth, the barrel of a gun on your forehead, and you looking at the sky above you, praying that it will be over soon, burning with rage at the armed one above you and his contemptful domination, longing to find a way to turn the gun on him. The sobs come from the rage and the impotence that is also a familiar companion in this "Indian" way, the sobs come from missing her smile, her laughter which burst like pearls from her mouth. Missing that already and her bright, rich voice on the telephone as she chattered about this and that solution to the thousand and one impossible situations faced by Indians in different parts of the world. She was a woman so hungry for life and for dignity and that is how we found one another and that is how we were friends, and that is how I lost her.
Ingrid was in Colombia visiting a group of Indians, who of course are threatened by genocide, and on the way back she was kidnapped and later killed.
And so in this numbness all I can do is write. I can write and ask the same question I asked after I was raped. I can write and ask the same question I did after Aguas Blancas, Acteal, the same question which rings in my head today.
Why? When will it end? How many more must die?
In these days when my body is wracked with exhaustion in the struggle to explain to people why they must act, the question is one which each day demands an answer. An answer buried under the tons of paper of the insane foreign policy of this country which sanctions plunder, and displacement, and impoverishment and yes "genocide."
And I remember on one of the first trips I made to Washington D.C., describing the situation of the Zapatistas an American Indian woman brought up the word "genocide" in front of a roomful of bureaucrats, and Indian representatives, and press people. And a severe criticism was embedded in the hushed room during the long meeting. "Don't you think you're exaggerating using that word genocide...it is such a dramatic word.." What is wrong with a society that cannot acknowledge brutality which is supposed to be ignored, because the victims of it, Indians, are invisible?
And I remember Ingrid's bright round eyes and the way they would fill with tears when she would hear the stories over and over again, when she would tap that well of sorrow which she knew so well as an American Indian whose people had faced the same genocide 150 years before. And I know somehow that at the moment of her death, she had no regrets about the way she had lived her life. The things that she had believed, the things that she had fought for, the hundreds of meetings and conferences and consultations and tours and articles that she had worked together with other Indian women in the hope of giving voice to the reality of Indians all over the world. In the hope that if this voice screamed loud enough, somehow this would make it stop.
And now I also imagine the pundits at the State Department are running through the official halls trying to figure out what "spin" they will put on Ingrid's death. "How will we explain the death of three Americans? A tragic accident, a travesty, a dramatic exposure of the need to continue to fund the Drug War--because of course, all the violence in Latin America is laid at the feet of the Drug War. There are so many factions, the pundits will say, terrible, terrible confusing situation, warn Americans to stay away, they will postulate."
"Ignore the oil companies and their plunder. Ignore the exploitive trade agreements which deny farmers their livelihood. Ignore the crumbling national governments which melt under the weight of the International Monetary Fund. Ignore the corrupt police and Army forces. Ignore the burgeoning social movements which erupt everywhere in search of hope, in search of something better than this devastation. This is the third world, the neoliberal pundits say, and the Third World will be saved soon--maybe twenty five more years of blood and suffering but eventually all of Latin America will join the first world and everyone will have a VCR and a Chevy in their garage. Indians will become integrated and happy."
And Ingrid's death joins the list of the thousands who have died giving witness to something that is terribly wrong with humanity today--this obscene imbalance that imbues a few with more wealth than they can ever use in their entire lives, and condemns the large majority to nothing but a march, a protest, a hunger strike, a land occupation, a gun, a hardened, wrinkled hand bunched together in a fist.
Forgive me if in my sorrow I am rhetorical and all over the place. This was my way of giving voice to the pain of her loss. Of honoring her life. Of marking her death.
I send to Ingrid's family and her loved ones all our consuelo, our hugs, our handshakes. We say to you that we honor Ingrid's life and mourn her death.
From the Zapatistas who knew Ingrid, even though they never met her,
Her hope remains untarnished.
Her death now becomes another of the callouses which cushion our
We will endure, Ingrid.
We will win.
INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL STATEMENT ON THE DEATHS OF INGRID
WASHINAWATOK, LAHE'ENA'E GAY AND TERENCE FREITAS
The International Indian Treaty Council is heartbroken and outraged beyond words at the brutal assassinations of Ingrid Washinawatok of the Menominee Nation and the Indigenous Women's Network, Lahe'ena'e Gay of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International, and Terence Frietas, environmental activist. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, friends and co- workers of these beloved individuals. They were, to the end of their lives, valiant warriors for peace, human rights and protection of the natural world.
Ingrid, Lahe and Terence were kidnapped on February 25th by armed gunmen in Uw'a Indian Territory of North Eastern Columbia. On March 5th, their brutalized and bullet-riddled bodies were discovered across the border in Venezuela. IITC is firmly committed to assisting the families in finding out the full truth about what occurred and bringing to justice those responsible for this heinous, barbarous act of violence. There are no words to fully express the extent of our condemnation for those responsible for this reprehensible act.
Ingrid came to the IITC as a college intern in 1978. IITC was able to secure a scholarship for her at the University of Havana in Cuba where she majored in the Spanish language. While studying in Cuba Ingrid met her future husband, Ali El Issa. Their son Maehki, now 14, traveled with Ingrid from his birth and was known and loved at the United Nations and by human rights organizations around the world.
After returning from Cuba, Ingrid worked in IITC's New York office for over eight years and continued to serve as a member of IITC's advisory council, as well as on the boards of many community and national-level organizations. Her bright smile, unforgettable laugh and sense of humor captured the hearts of all who knew her.
Information which has come to light since the kidnappings raises serious questions about whether the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia (FARC), initially implicated in the kidnapping, was in fact responsible. Many of the facts as well as possible motives for the killings point instead to the involvement of paramilitary forces operating in the region. These groups have much more to gain than the FARC by destabilizing the peace process in Columbia and alienating international human rights movements through such acts of extreme brutality..
Likewise, the role and involvement of the United States government must be scrutinized thoroughly if the entire picture is to come to light and justice served. US Attorney General Janet Reno was reportedly in Bogota the day before the bodies were found to finalize the transfer of over $230 million from the US to the Colombian government for its so-called "war on drugs" program. This program is reportedly used by the Colombian government to wage military operations against the FARC and has been implicated in widespread human rights violations against the civilian population.
The ongoing role of US-based Occidental Petroleum in perpetrating violence in the area must be thoroughly investigated as well. The Uw'a People have successfully opposed oil development by Occidental on their lands, in part by building international support and awareness The three slain activists were visiting and offering support to the Uw'a when they were taken captive.
The IITC calls upon the United Nations through its appropriate investigative bodies to assist in expediting the fact-finding efforts underway. UN involvement would minimize the possibilities for manipulation of facts to serve the foreign or domestic policy interests of the countries involved, and provide objective international oversight in this situation in which the human rights of the three victims were massively and brutally violated.
The International Indian Treaty Council is calling upon the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia (FARC) and the Government of Columbia to resume Peace talks in honor of Ingrid Washinawatok, a Great Menominee Indian Woman who was loved by Indigenous Peoples throughout the world. To use her death to undermine the Peace Process in Columbia would be a gross violation of her lifelong commitment to justice and human rights. The pursuit of peace is the only logical conclusion to this great loss.
U'WA DEFENSE WORKING GROUP
March 6, 1999
Steve Kretzmann (510) 421-5130-mobile, 510-705-8982, 510-339-6933
Shannon Wright (415) 398-4404, ext. 316 or (415) 920-9809
Atossa Soltani, (310) 456-1340
Melina Selverston (202) 785-3334
On the Murders of Three American Activists in Colombia
"Today we feel that we're fighting a large and strong spirit that wants to
beat us or force us to submit to a law contrary to that which Sira (God)
established and wrote in our hearts, even before there was the sun and the
moon. When faced with such a thing, we are left with no alternative other
than to continue fighting on the side of the sky and earth and spirits or
else disappear when the irrationality of the invader violates the most
sacred of our laws."
We are grieved and shocked by the tragic news of the murders in Colombia of our three colleagues and fellow activists Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok, and Lahe'ena'e Gay and offer our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends. Terence Freitas was a dear friend of all of ours and a dedicated activist who had devoted the last two years of his life to supporting the U'wa people of Colombia to defend their rights and traditional territory from oil exploration by Occidental Petroleum. Terry served as the coordinator of the U'wa Defense Working Group. No one outside of Colombia has done more to support this struggle than Terry.
We call for a full investigation by the US government and independent human rights observers into the deaths of our three colleagues. We call on the State Department to ensure that the possible role of paramilitary groups is fully investigated, and we call upon the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) to clarify their involvement, if any.
The U'wa people's rights and ancestral land remain under threat from the proposed oil project. The U'wa have expressed repeatedly and in adamant terms their opposition to this project. Occidental's application for a drilling license is currently pending with the Colombian Ministry, and a decision is expected at any time. The well sites in question fall within an area the U'wa consider their ancestral land.
On several occasions last year, Terry reported being followed and observed by individuals believed to be associated with paramilitary activity. On the same trip, Terry was forced to sign a statement by the Colombian military, which essentially absolved the Colombian military of any responsibility for his safety. He interpreted this as an intimidation tactic. The deaths of our friends underscore the need for immediate steps to peacefully end the escalating violence in oil regions and against human rights advocates in Colombia.
We reaffirm the U'wa's demand that Occidental immediately withdraw their application to drill on ancestral U'wa lands and call on Occidental to consider its role in the ongoing cycle of violence in Colombia.
Oil and violence are inextricably linked in Colombia. Thirteen of the fourteen Colombian military battalions implicated in human rights abuses by Amnesty International received U.S. weapons or training. Occidental's Caqo Limsn pipeline has been attacked by guerrillas more than 500 times in its 12 years of existence. In response to this guerrilla tactic, the government has militarized oil production and pipeline zones, in the process persecuting local populations whom the government assumes are helping the guerrillas. Arauca, the area where our friends were killed, has one of the highest rates of documented human rights abuses by paramilitary forces loyal to the governments.
We resolve to carry on the work of Terry, Ingrid and Lahe' in defense of the U'wa people. Their deaths will not be in vain.
Member of the U'wa Defense Working Group:
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701
(608) 257-8753 fax (608) 255-6621
email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.igc.apc.org/csn/
Madison, March 5,1999
The Colombia Support Network deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the murder of three United States citizens who were kidnapped near the U'Wa lands in Arauca in Eastern Colombia. These three persons were on a mission to promote peace and wellbeing for the people of Colombia, particularly for the U'Wa indigenous peoples whom they had just visited. Their killing is an outrage. The perpetrators of this infamous crime must be located and brought to justice.
It is not at all clear which armed group is responsible for the kidnapping and murder. We call upon the Colombian authorities to act professionally and promptly to investigate to determine who kidnapped and killed Ingrid, Terry and Gay and to arrest and try all those responsible for this crime. CSN, with headquarters in Ingrid's home state of Wisconsin, offers its assistance and good offices to help.
JOHN I. LAUN
Please send faxes and letter to the addresses below DEMANDING aprompt and full investigation to determine the true authors of these crimes and see that they are brought to justice. Please write to your Senators and Representatives
President William J. Clinton (202)456 2461
Doctor Andris Pastrana Arango,
Doctor Gustavo Bell Lemus
Doctor Humberto Martmnez Neira
Doctor Rodrigo Lloreda
Doctor Jaime Bernal Cuellar