About 200 U’wa Indians in northeast Colombia seized an area on Tuesday that they claim is an ancestral homeland to prevent Occidental Petroleum Corp. from oil drilling there. Occidental won approval in late September to begin drilling for crude after a seven-year legal wrangle over indigenous land rights. On Wednesday, however, Roberto Perez, head of the 5,000-member U’wa community, called for Occidental and the government to abandon the drilling project for good. “The U’wa people are committed to give their lives to defend Mother Earth from this project which would destroy our culture, nature and world balance,” he said. In the past, the U’wa have threatened to commit mass suicide if the oil industry encroached on their ancestral lands.

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