Victory: Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling

Ta'kahi Guaitiao (Greetings relatives):

On behalf of the people of the Taino Nation and other Caribbean Indigenous Peoples represented by the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP), I say bo'matum (thank you) to express our deepest gratitude to all those who responded yesterday to the national call for action on a critical vote taking place in the U.S. Senate that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) to oil exploration.

This disgraceful action had the potential to destroy this fragile arctic coastal plain, which is recognized as the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou, a home to polar bears, musk oxen, and an annual influx of millions of migratory birds. The well-being of the Caribou and other wildlife in the region are also tied to the traditional way of life of the indigenous Gwich'in Nation, who have been at the forefront of protests against oil drilling in the area.

The Republican-led move to drill in the ANWAR has long been seen by many activists and political analysts as a political "test" that if successful would signal the end for all manner of environmental protections as well as the protection of endangered species. A decade ago a Republican-led Congress used a parliamentary maneuver to get an ANWR bill successfully past a filibuster, only to have it vetoed by then President Clinton. This time however, President Bush has made ANWR exploitation a top priority and is "eager to sign a bill."

The UCTP is pleased to announce that the Senate blocked oil drilling in the ANWAR today, narrowly rejecting the measure that had been put into a "must-pass defense spending bill in an attempt to garner wider support."

Supporters of arctic drilling were just four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a threatened filibuster of the defense measure over the oil drilling issue. The vote was 56-44. The House of Representatives passed the $454 billion defense spending bill earlier this week, 308-106.

Senate leaders are now expected to withdraw the legislation so it could be reworked without the refuge language.

In light of this positive news, the UCTP recommends that all those who wrote to their Senators could follow up on this issue by finding out how they voted on this legislation. If your State Senator voted against this measure, please write her/him a letter of thanks and let them know you appreciate their stance in defense of Attabeira, our Mother Earth.

If they voted for the bill, please let them know that you are very disappointed with their decision and that they should re-evaluate their position on this issue and support stronger environmental protections in the future.

This action in the Senate is proof that public opinion can make a difference and that our community, our Nation, can contribute positively to larger issues affecting the survival of our indigenous relatives and Attabeira, our Mother Earth.

Oma'bahari (With respect),
Roberto Mukaro Borrero,
President and Chairman,
UCTP U.S. Regional Coordinating Office


AP News “Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling”

WASHINGTON - The Senate blocked an attempt to open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling Wednesday, foiling an attempt by drilling backers to force the measure through Congress as part of a must-have defense spending bill. It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had given senators a choice to support the Alaska drilling measure, or risk the political fallout of voting against money for American troops and for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

For the full AP story see “Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling” at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051221/ap_on_go_co/arctic_drilling_14;

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