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Death, Debt and Petro Dollars in Ecuador

A toxic triumvirate of situations is brewing in Ecuador.  These three unfolding developments have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life for all of us, not just Ecuadorian indigenous who seem the most adversely affected.

Ecuador has been busy racking up an enormous debt to China since 2009, taking out loans with a promise to pay in Ecuadorian oil.  Part of this money paid for two hydroelectric projects in Ecuador. The $7,000,000,000 owed amounts to one-tenth of Ecuador’s national GNP.

Ecuador’s strategy for repaying this debt involves selling oil to other countries, too.  Ecuadorian representatives have been on a road show in Paris, Texas and China, hawking a 3-million-hectare block of land in eastern Ecuador. This is the equivalent of about 7 million acres.  The auction process was to have been completed by May 30, 2013, but has been extended until July 16.

Oil Demand Threatens Ecuador's Rainforest

Indigenous leaders and communities have been very outspoken in their criticism of this  road-show and the bidding process.

According to AmazonWatch.org, the number of acres in the Amazon that are up for auction is 10,000,000.  You can sign a petition to President Raphael Correa making it known that you oppose this auctioning of the Amazon, known as the 11th Round Oil Auction. The petition asks Correa to stop the drilling, to respect the indigenous and to respect nature.  Respect for the earth was explicitly granted in the newest Ecuador Constitution but is only being given lip service as the government openly takes bids from all comers for oil drilling.

In 2012 a group of indigenous Ecuadorians published an open letter to the world.


Ten indigenous communities, including the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) and its associate nations very emphatically stated their rejection of the international promotional process of the Ronda Suroriente  that would affect their land.  They claimed the process violated their rights according to the Constitution of Ecuador and International Human Rights Treaties.

They say that the government of Ecuador has not complied with the sentencing made by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights in the Sarayaku case.  This ruling gives indigenous people the right of free, prior and informed consent in matters that concern the safety of their “cultural integrity and reparation.”

They ask the rest of the world to stand with them in solidarity as they try to uphold the rights they have been granted, but which are continuing to be disregarded by the Ecuadorian government.  The government of Ecuador is continuing to disregard their pleas for justice.

Andrés Donoso Fabara is the secretary of hydrocarbons for Ecuador.  In a recent interview he accused indigenous leaders of misrepresenting their communities for political gain and said that they don’t care about development or fighting poverty.  He stated that the government can go in and take actions it wants to despite indigenous protests.  Not exactly words that empathize with indigenous concerns.

Outrage may have came to a head on March 29 when 20 Taromenane were killed by Huaorani tribesmen. Correa says these murders are the result of tribal disputes with no connection to the oil companies, but others disagree.

Another group of indigenous leaders protested the oil drilling and bidding in a meeting on March 9, 2013.  “The rainforest cannot be bought or sold. The Amazon has no price,” Milton Callera, president of the Parliament of Amazon Nations, passionately declared.

Many newspapers in Ecuador side with the government, believing that the dire economic woes can be remedied by selling oil.  Other papers speak out about the likely destruction of Ecuador’s pristine environment , so the battles rage on many fronts.

Other articles on Amazon oil drilling–

Rainforest Chernobyl in Ecuador’s Amazon

Yasuni National Park: The Transcendant and the Terrible

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One Comment

  1. benito standard says:

    How disappointing. Doing the right thing is trumped by the almighty dollar and the insatiable desire for oil. I like the words of the President, not his actions.