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News ::
Victory in U'wa campaign: Boston's efforts vindicated
14 May 2002
Modified: 11 Jun 2002
In early May 2002, Occidental Petroleum executives announced they would discontinue attempts at oil exploration on U'wa land, handing the tribe and their international supporters a monumental victory after a long and bitter struggle. Fundamental to that success were Boston efforts against financial giants like Fidelity Investments, showing that even small demonstrations, carefully and strategically targeted, can have a huge impact years down the road.
Occidental to leave U'wa Land: A look back on Boston's involvement in a decade-long solidarity struggle
[In early May 2002, Occidental Petroleum executives announced they would discontinue attempts at oil exploration on U'wa land, handing the tribe and their international supporters a monumental victory after a long and bitter struggle] In a campaign that stretches back a decade, the U'wa people of Colombia have been fighting the US-based Occidental Petroleum company that was granted concessions by the Colombian government to drill in their part of Colombia's rich cloudforest. The nation that numbers 5,000 has been staging peaceful protests and blockades, while pressing their case in the Colombian and International courts.
As part of a global solidarity campaign, from 1999 to 2000, Boston-based environmental and global justice activists targeted Fidelity Investment, one of Occidental's largest shareholders based in Boston, and then Vice-President Al Gore, whose personal ties and stake in the company had cast a dark shadow on his environmental credentials and proved to be a major embarrassment like his Africa AIDS policies in the hard fought presidential election campaign. As a founding member organization of the Boston Global Action Network shortly after the WTO protests in Seatte, RAN drew on BGAN's network of organizations and its ties to labor and social justice groups to stage successful Boston actions against the company's high profile investors.
In an attempt to honor the hard work of local activists who fought a long and often lonely struggle in support of the U'wa, a compilation of retrospective links have been provided below, along with background information on the international campaign:

Message from campaign organizers:
5/7 - It has been a dramatic week for the U'wa, their supporters and everyone working for peace and justice in Colombia. Amidst several US policy decisions that will escalate the violence in Colombia, comes Occidental Petroleum's announcement that they are returning the Siriri oil block, which is located on U'wa land, to the Colombian government. What this means is that the words that so many of us have written on banners, said in press releases, and chanted at numerous demonstrations -- OXY OFF OF U'WA LAND! - are coming true!
Although the U'wa are still confirming details and have 10 years of experiences with OXY's dirty tricks to make them cautious, they have received this news with great joy. This is a major VICTORY! Despite assuring investors for 8 years of a major oil strike now suddenly OXY claims there is no oil in the region. Clearly the resistance of the U'wa and the pressure of the international solidarity movement demanding peace and justice in Colombia helped OXY finally see the light.
This surprise announcement was made at OXY's May 3rd shareholders meeting in the wake of a spirited demonstration and media held outside the meeting by activists from Amazon Watch, Action Resource Center and Project Underground. As shareholders and the financial press entered the meeting, they were greeted by giant OXY soldiers carrying weapons emblazoned with American flags and "Plan Colombia" logos. The demonstration educated the shareholders about the deadly link between OXY's operations in Colombia, US military aid and the rising body count of Colombia's brutal civil war. [more from Patrick Reinsborough]

Full text of the U'wa communique from the traditional authorities of the U'wa peoples.
Press release by Amazon Watch, Action Resource Center, Project Underground, Rainforest Action Network.
Article on Alternet.
U'wa Campaign Info.

Boston activism around the U'wa Campaign:

Fidelity gets out (12/14/2000)
Protesters fill Boston streets (10/4/2000)
Environmentalists Drop Banner Off Roof Of Democratic Party Office In Boston (8/14/2000)
U'wa Tribal President Arrives in Boston to Confront Fidelity Investments (4/3/2000)
Fidelity a Target in Oil Protest (2/4/2000)
Bitter returns (2/3/2002)
BGAN web site on U'wa Campaign.

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Whitewashing for World Banksters
16 May 2002
Most likely, Occidental and Fidelity - both of which are just corporate subsidiaries of the global financial system - will have offshore corporations continue raping Columbia and other nations under different names.

Such naive and symbolic "activism" - attacking superficial corporate targets one after another - is a pyrric victory that makes some guilty American "activists" believe they've been redeemed - like "Christians" who work for the death-industrial complex five days a week and go to church on Sunday to convince themselves they're "doing good".

Worst of all, such hypocricy whitewashes the underlying problem of the corporate-banking system. It's just PR for banksters, which is why they finance "activist" groups like RAN.

In contrast, the people's victory in Venezuela is for real. That's because - unlike American pseudo-activists - Hugo Chavez doesn't receive grants from the very corporate-banking groups with whom he's wrestling.

If you don't understand the fraud of fractional-reserve banking and usury (charging interest on non-renewable commodities), you can't do anything that's lastingly effective about pollution, poverty, war, etc.


by David Korten

Instead of creating wealth, our money system is depleting our real wealth: our communities, ecosystems, and productive infrastructure.

What is this madness? The economy is booming. The stock market is setting new records. The US is again heralded as the world's most competitive economy. We are assured that we are richer than ever before and getting richer by the day.

Yet we are also told there is no longer enough money to provide an adequate education for our children, health care and safety nets for the poor, protection for the environment, parks, a living wage for working people, public funding for the arts and public radio, or adequate pensions for the elderly. According to the official wisdom, even though richer, we can no longer afford what we once took for granted. How is this possible? What's gone wrong?

A quick hint. The problem most definitely is not a lack of money. The world is awash in it. The world's 450 billionaires alone have combined financial assets greater than the combined annual incomes of half of humanity.
The problem is this: a predatory global financial system, driven by the single imperative of making ever more money for those who already have lots of it, is rapidly depleting the real capital ­ the human, social, natural, and even physical capital ­ on which our well-being depends.

The truly troubling part is that so many of us have become willing accomplices to what is best described as a war of money against life.

It starts, in part, from our failure to recognize that money is not wealth.

Wealth is something that has real value in meeting our needs and fulfilling our wants. Modern money is only a number on a piece of paper or an electronic trace in a computer that by social convention gives its holder a claim on real wealth. In our confusion we concentrate on the money to the neglect of those things that actually sustain a good life.

It is striking how difficult our very language makes it to express the critical difference between money and real wealth. Picture yourself alone on a desert island with nothing to sustain yourself but a large trunk filled with bundles of hundred dollar bills. The point becomes immediately clear.

During a visit to Malaysia some years ago I met the minister responsible for forestry. In explaining Malaysia's forestry policy he observed that the country would be better off once its forests were cleared away and the money from the sale was stashed in banks earning interest. The financial returns would be greater.

The image flashed through my mind of a barren and lifeless world populated only by banks with their computers faithfully and endlessly compounding the interest on the profits from timber sales.

The importance of the difference between money and wealth is not limited to people who find themselves stranded on desert islands. It is basic to understanding why the more money we have as a nation the less we can afford. It is as well a key to understanding the underlying pathology of the global economic system.

Money pathology

Think of a modern money economy as comprised of two related subsystems. One creates wealth. It consists of factories, homes, farms, stores, transportation and communications facilities, the natural productive systems of the planet, and people going to work in factories, hospitals, schools, stores, restaurants, publishing houses, and elsewhere to produce the goods and services that sustain us. The other creates and distributes money as a convenient mechanism for allocating wealth.

In a healthy economy the money system serves as dutiful servant of wealth creation, allocating real capital to productive investment and rewarding those who do productive work in relation to their contribution.

In a healthy economy, money is not the dominant value, nor is it the sole or even dominant medium of exchange. Indeed, one of the most important indicators of economic health is the presence of an active economy of affection and reciprocity in which people do a great many useful things for one another with no expectation of financial gain. Such voluntary sharing creates and maintains the fabric of trust and mutual caring of which the social capital of any healthy family, community, or society is comprised.

Pathology enters the economic system when money, once convenient as a means of facilitating commerce, comes to define the life purpose of individuals and society. The human, social, and natural capital on which the well-being of any society depends becomes subject to sacrifice on the altar of money making. Those who already have money prosper at the expense of those who don't. It is a social pathology called finance capitalism.

When financial assets and transactions grow faster than growth in the output of real wealth, it is a strong indication that the global economy is getting sick. A study by McKinsey and Company found that from 1980 to 1992 financial assets in the developed countries of the OECD grew twice as fast as their underlying economies and bullishly predicted that future financial growth would be three times real output growth. [William Greider, One World, Ready or Not; New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997, page 232.] Indeed, as the Malaysian minister noted, in the global economy money is growing a great deal faster than the trees.

Furthermore, the biggest profits are going to those who deal in pure finance. For 1996, the shareholders of the seven largest US money center banks reaped an average total return of 44 percent. Mutual funds specializing in finance averaged a 26.5 percent return, besting all other industry categories by a wide margin. Funds specializing in much-touted technology stocks came in a poor second at 21 percent.

The growing dominance of money is also revealed in the increasing monetization of human relationships. Not long ago, even in the most supposedly advanced countries, half of the adult population worked without pay to maintain home and community. These are among the most fundamental and important of functions in a healthy economy. Now, it typically takes two adults holding two to three paid jobs between them to support a household. Child and home care is either left undone or hired out. Community service becomes the work of public employees ­ to the extent there is public money to pay them. As the social capital of caring relations is depleted, family and community life fall into disarray.

Pyramids, bubbles and the global casino

Albania recently suffered a national crisis brought on by the collapse of fraudulent pyramid schemes. Westerners wise in the ways of the market were bemused by the naiveté of the Albanians who fell for "investment" schemes promising returns as high as 25 percent a month with no real business activity behind them. During the course of the nationwide speculative frenzy, farmers sold their flocks and urban dwellers their apartments to share in the promised bonanza of effortless wealth. The inevitable collapse sparked widespread riots, arson, and looting when the Albanian government failed to make up the losses.

Those inclined to laugh at the innocence of the Albanians should first consider their own response to proposals that social security contributions be invested in a stock market that even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says is substantially over valued.

The speculative financial bubble, which involves bidding up the price of an asset far beyond its underlying value, is little more than a sophisticated variant of the classic pyramid scam.

Investing in a bubble is a form of gambling and it isn't entirely naive. Who cares if there is nothing behind it? The bubble is the action. The trick is to place big bets and get out before it bursts. It is a game of nerves. The action gets especially exciting when banks are willing to accept the inflated assets as collateral and lend new money into existence to stake further play, which pushes prices ever higher.

This process of borrowing into bubbles with newly created money is key to making financial wealth increase faster than real wealth. Furthermore, when a leveraged bubble bursts and banks are left with substantial portfolios of uncollectible loans, governments are almost forced to step in with a bailout to stop a banking collapse ­ as the US government did in the case of the Great Depression and the more recent Savings and Loan crisis. This amounts to another money transfer, this time from taxpayers to those with money.

Betting on financial bubbles is only one of the lucrative games that attract players to the global finance casino. There are as well opportunities to speculate on short-term price movements, buy and sell simultaneously in different markets to profit from minute price differences, and bet on derivatives contracts. While economists have become exceedingly facile in rationalizing how such activities actually benefit society, in truth they are more accurately described as forms of legal theft by which a clever few expropriate rights to the real wealth of society while contributing more to its depletion than to its creation.

Consuming capital to make money

William Greider, in his newly released book One World Ready or Not, observes that corporations get caught in the trap of having to compete for investment funds against the often more lucrative financial games of the world of pure finance. With the rare exception of companies with a hot product or distinctive market niche, in an unregulated global economy most corporations have little choice but to use their economic and political power to externalize ever growing portions of their costs onto the community.

The dynamics of a competitive global economy favor the cost externalization process because they pit workers and communities against one another in a deadly race to the bottom. By competing for the jobs corporations offer, workers and communities are compelled to deplete real wealth to make corporations more profitable.

Responding to the pressures of financial markets, corporations:

Deplete social capital by moving production to places where they can pay less than a living wage or use the threat of moving jobs to break up labor unions and bargain down wages. Gains from productive activity are thus shifted from working people to money people. Furthermore, the stress of attempting to maintain self and family on insecure jobs paying less than a family wage results in family breakdown and violence, depleting the social capital of society.

Deplete human capital by hiring young women in places like the Mexican maquiladoras under conditions that lead to their physical burnout after three or four years. Once eyesight problems, allergies, kidney problems, and repetitive stress injuries deplete their efficiency, they are replaced by a fresh supply of younger women. Such practices destroy lives and deplete society's human capital.

Deplete the Earth's natural capital through strip mining forests, fisheries, and mineral deposits, dumping wastes, and aggressively marketing toxic chemicals.

Deplete institutional capital by fighting environmental and other regulations essential to the long-term health and viability of society. Corporations further demand direct public subsidies, subsidized infrastructure, and relief from their fair share of taxes. This shifts a greater share of the tax burden onto working people and undermines the credibility and performance of government in its essential functions, thus eroding the legitimacy of democratic government.

Deplete business capital. Corporate managers are forced into a short-term view even in regard to their own operations. They cut investment in research and training essential to their own future prospects. As they downsize, the sharp employee quickly learns to use the job only to build a resume to attract a higher bidder. These actions erode the corporation's own human, intellectual, social, and physical capital.

Intent on making ever more money for those who already have money ­ even at the cost of depleting the natural, human, institutional, and social capital on which the very survival of society depends ­ the money system becomes like a cancer that consumes its host and ultimately destroys itself.

The CEO of a publicly traded corporation who fails to maximize profits because of a moral aversion to engaging in such predatory practices is almost certain to be eliminated by the system, even if he ­ they are almost all men ­ runs an otherwise profitable operation. Where the shareholders don't step in, a corporate raider most surely will.

The money system becomes like a cancer that consumes its host and ultimately destroys itself.

Pacific Lumber Company for years pioneered the development of sustainable logging practices on its substantial holdings of ancient redwood timber stands in California. It also provided generous benefits to its employees, fully funded its pension fund, and maintained a no-layoffs policy during downturns in the timber market. This made it a good citizen. It also made it a prime takeover target.

Corporate raider Charles Hurwitz gained control in a hostile takeover. He immediately doubled the cutting rate of the company's holding of thousand-year-old trees, reaming a mile-and-a-half corridor into the middle of the forest that he jeeringly named "Our wildlife-biologist study trail." He then drained $55 million from the company's $93 million pension fund and invested the remaining $38 million in annuities of the Executive Life Insurance Company ­ which had financed the junk bonds used to make the purchase and subsequently failed.

The remaining redwoods are now the subject of a last-ditch effort by environmentalists to save them from clearcutting.
Professional buy-out artists are drawn like bees to honey by a socially responsible firm that internalizes its environmental costs, pays union wages, invests in worker training, fully funds its pension fund, and pays its full share of taxes. In a system that puts short-term profits first, these are inefficiencies to be eliminated.

Over the last several years, the biggest corporations have performed as the financial markets have demanded ­ increasing their profits by an average of 20 percent a year. In 1996, the 30 US corporations whose stock prices comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned to their shareholders an average of 28.2 percent for the year, a substantial increase from the five-year average of 18.3 percent. Each such increase further lifts the floor under investor expectations and increases the pressure on top managers to maintain such returns in the future ­ by any means.

The global corporation is arguably the most powerful instrument for concentrating power and wealth ever devised. Indeed, of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations. The economy of Mitsubishi is larger than that of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country and a land of enormous natural wealth.

Because we have so little experience in designing money systems to create societies that benefit people and nature, we will need to be creative.

Healing the money system

To heal society we must heal the money system. This will involve a two-fold process of reducing money's importance in our lives and restoring its appropriate role in service to the creation and protection of real wealth.

It will be necessary to de-myth money. I earned MBA and PhD degrees from one of the world's leading graduate schools of business, but I was never taught the difference between making money and creating wealth, nor how to distinguish between productive and predatory investments. Such lessons should be a basic part of education for business or responsible citizenship.

We need to reweave the social fabric. In a society in which relationships are defined by love, generosity, and community, the importance of money in mediating personal exchange and allocating resources is likely to decline markedly. This will require reducing monetary dependence and restoring non-monetary exchanges through a process that selectively delinks individuals, families, and communities from dependence on the predatory institutions of a global economy, downscaling consumption to reduce dependence on paid work, increasing reliance on local products to meet basic needs, and strengthening the engagement of all persons in the productive life of family and community.

The truly monumental task will be to redesign the money system to make money the servant of the creation and protection of real wealth. Among other things, corrective measures will need to: 1) make speculation unprofitable; 2) limit the growth of financial bubbles; 3) increase incentives for cooperation among people and communities; 4) reward productive work and investment; 5) create a just distribution of claims to real wealth; 6) provide incentives for patient and locally rooted investment in real assets; and 7) strengthen the social fabric of family and community.

A common currency exclusive to the members of one city or geographic region is one means of moving towards these goals. Another is to introduce zero- or negative-interest money. We should also consider whether it makes sense for private banks, rather than government or communities, to create money, and seriously consider substantial taxes on short-term speculative gains.

The purpose of such measures is not to promote global growth and competition, but rather to create healthy and prosperous societies that provide economic security and just rewards for productive contribution to their members, have a strong and caring social fabric, and live in balance with their natural environment. Because we have so little experience in designing money systems to create societies that benefit people and nature, we will need to be creative; there are no tested guidelines.

Many of the best minds of our time are engaged in finding ways to use the finance system to claim ever more of the world's real wealth for those who already control much of it. But there are also those who are concerned with how we might redesign money to serve a society that works for all people and preserves the natural environment. The articles that follow contain some of their thinking and experimentation.

David Korten has an MBA and PhD from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, has served on the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, and has spent many years in Asia on assignment from the Ford Foundation and the US Agency for International Development. He is the author of When Corporations Rule the World (Berrett-Koehler and Kumarian Press, 1995), president of the People-Centered Development Forum, and chair of the board of Positive Futures Network, publisher of YES!

To subscribe by phone, call 1-800-YES-4451
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Most likely, Jon? Most definitely.
17 May 2002
You can gurantee that other companies are willing to step in, especially with the increase in U.S. aid.
I Stand Corrected
17 May 2002

Thank you. I stand corrected. You're right. MOST DEFINITELY other corporations - probably more brutal than Occidental - will step in and rape Columbia - until they get a legitimate president like Hugo Chavez.

Meanwhile, most politically correct "activists" will pay taxes to "our" corporate government with the naive notion that Federal taxes fund socially beneficially programs.

As Gore Vidal points out, about 80% of Federal taxes pay for corporate imperialism, and most of the rest goes to the domestic mafia and bureaucratic waste.

The wealthy pay almost zero taxes because they've got offshore bank accounts and tax writeoffs for contributing to groups like RAN, BGAN and UFA.

Furthermore, the American government functioned quite efficiently before the IRS and the Federal Reserve Bank came along in 1913 - only to be followed by the First World War and the era of the perminant warfare "economy".

The core of the problem is centralized, fractional-reserve banking and usury (charging interest on a non-renewable commodity - such as debt.)

The global banking system needs to be reprogrammed or we're doomed.
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we take down multinational corporations....
18 May 2002
what do you do?

for those like kim foster and the others in BRAG and BGAN who put countless hours and their own money into this campaign in Boston, I congradulate you on a success. although we can't be certain that this will be the last attack on the land to which the U'wa call home, we do at
least know that we can, as a united grassroots movement, effect change.

seems like john has an terribly lot of time to spend thinking about how the culmination of the campaign against Oxy has not changed anything. and it seems like he is well read it the latest theories and strategies to theorize about. this reminds me quite a lot of why very few things ACTUALLY get done in this country. people are too busy talking about how they would do it, or how it should have been done, or why whatever did actually get accomplished means nothing.

back to the title of this post. "We take down multinational corporations. what do you do?" we should ALL be looking into. whether we still hold some misconception that it is okay to eat and exploit animals, the campaign to close huntingdon life sciences has very quickly set the pace on how to take down a multinational corporation and to win. its less than three years, every financial backer has abandoned HLS and its been taking us an an average of less than a week to force the companies that provide services to the lab (cleaning services, food, etc) to sever their ties and we haven't even used a single demonstration against these service companies.

so for those who want to learn about econo-activism and want to learn how to take down mulitnational corporations, visit and this is how it is done.

but if you want to talk theory and make outlandish posts on the internet chat groups and whatnot, go on keep talking about the victory in the streets of seattle, 1999.

"it is not attacking capitalism, but using it against itself."
- stop huntingdon animal cruelty USA newsletter, volume, 2, issue 2, page 8.
01 Jun 2002
The real question is what do YOU do. (I'm provisional President of the United States. Haven't you heard?)

It's pretty obvious to anyone who's experienced in investigating the psyops (covert psychological operations) of the FBI, CIA, MI6, Mossad, ALF, ELF, SHAC, the Mass Greenwash Party, Cato, Republicrats and numerous other disinformationists that you ultimately work for the mother of all corporations - the Bank of England, Federal Reserve Corporation, World Bank Group and their various partners in crime.

It's no wonder why you make such an effort to manipulate the attention of naive American activists and keep them chasing superficial diversions.

Since the Battle of Seattle and more important (but unreported) events, your duplicitous efforts to confuse citizens have been steadily failing, along with your fraudulant banking system.

Seems like you've got plenty of time - and funding - to fail at your psyops job.
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That's right, Jon
03 Jun 2002
Gee, it sure isn't a victory that the U'Wa are still alive and that bonds were forged between indigenous activists in Colombia and others throughout the world. I doubt that any white people in the states could possibly have learned something from following the lead of people of color in the global south. And there's no way that corporations will be a bit more wary of drilling in U'Wa land after seeing the kinds of targets that Fidelity and Occidental were. No, sir.

Putting aside the sarcasm, Jon, your comments ring hollow. Did this campaign end the current monetary system? No. Did it dismantle corporations? No. But it did have a very real impact on the lives of the U'Wa, it did raise awareness of corporate abuses, and it did forge relationships that help to build a movement. That all matters.
That's a Start
11 Jun 2002
Dear "Rolling My Eyes",

Well, rolling your eyes at my radical (non-superficial) investigations is just a mild form of personality assassination - in which the progre$$ive media specializes.

But at least you seem to be STARTING to inquire about the most essential issues: WHO manipulates "our" elections, media and monetary systems, and HOW is it done?

We are all people of color, so please don't perpetuate that old divide-and-conquer tactic on us anymore. Most of my moral support is derived from the most oppressed Africans and First Nations, not from wealthy Quackers.

If you feel guilty about being "white", perhaps you should explore the source of your guilt and see if your "activism" can be energized by a more realistic and less superficial perspective of the world.
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