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Activists say fight against oil and mining will become a ‘national crusade’

Environmental activists who staged a sit-in last week at the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito say the fight to stop oil and mining projects in Ecuador is just beginning.

Yasunidos protesters at the National Electoral Council headquarters last week in Quito. (El Comercio)

Specifically, the protesters known collectively as the Yasunidos, were demanding that the CNE allow a national referendum on oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, in Ecuador’s eastern Amazonia. The group claims that the government of former president Rafael Correa illegally blocked the referendum in 2013 by refusing to accept 300,000 voter signatures.

At the time, CNE cited several reasons for not accepting the signatures, including the fact that they were not on officially approved forms. In total, the Yasunidos collected 757,000 signatures, about 600,000 of which were required for a referendum.

“We were defrauded and people of Ecuador were defrauded by the government and today we are demanding justice and that the referendum be allowed to go forward,” says Yasunidos leader Antonella Calle. “We now know through email and phone records that the president and his cronies directed CNE to stop our petition because he wanted to exploit the oil in the jungle. This was confirmed by an investigation of the Citizen Participation Council.”

Calle added that Correa broke a promise to protect the Yasuní, considered by biologists to be one of the most bio-diverse place on earth, when he allowed oil drilling to begin in 2014. “He lied when he said he would preserve the jungle and then he illegally stopped our referendum,” she says.

In 2007, Correa announced a plan that asked other countries to contribute $3.6 billion to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling in Yasuní. The area was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to a number of indigenous groups, including the Waoranis. Five years later, after the preservation campaign had raised less than $50 million, Correa claimed that “the world has failed us” and announced that oil production in the area would begin.

Currently, there are three oil production sites in the Yasuní.

When the anti-drilling petition drive began in 2013, Correa denounced the Yasunidos as “spoiled children” and “silly environmentalists.”

According to Calle, the fight against oil and mining extraction is just beginning. “This is a national crusade supported by millions of Ecuadorians,” she said. “We are joining our friend in Cuenca, Yaku Perez, to fight the destruction of our land and the pollution of our water. The next government will have to listen to us.”

Perez has taken his case against mining in Azuay Province to the Constitutional Court, asking that a province-wide referendum be allowed to determine if mining is allowed.

Calle says that President Lenin Moreno has followed Correa in “betraying” Ecuador’s natural heritage. “On the most important issue, there is no difference between Correa and Moreno. Both want to rape the land for money and the voices to stop this will prevail in coming elections.”

14 thoughts on “Activists say fight against oil and mining will become a ‘national crusade’

  1. This is a good follow up to the story about Lasso and Nebot. I’m not sure of the amount of support these folks actually have but it is certainly enough to keep Alianza Pais and the Correists from controlling the government again. There are a lot of indigenous, campesinos and environmentliasts who support the cause. They are mostly “leftists” but they will never vote for the interests of Moreno and Correa.

    1. Good point. Besides the environmentalists, Moreono (AP) and the Correistas will not get the votes of people who support abortion and gay rights, which they both oppose. It was said that Correa “took orders” from the Vatican and this turned off a lot of people. These may not have been big issues in the past but they will be in the future.

      1. Correa took orders from the Vatican? Where do people come up with such ridiculous ideas? Just because he’s Catholic and against abortion? This is exactly what people who were prejudiced against Catholics historically said.

    2. Leftist”? Labels mean nothing..merely convenient camouflage. I never saw Moreno, Correa as leftist, any more than Maduro is a “socialist”. It like saying Trump is a Lincoln.

      1. Calling someone names like “liberal” or “leftist” is meant to be a conversation stopper when all else fails. Trump does a variation of this every day by calling anything he disagrees with “fake news”

        1. Bravo Jenny!. That makes perfect sense. It is much easier to replace reality if is stripped of credibility and demonized. And if intentions and good faith can be obscured by labels ..even better. I have never seen or heard of as many absurdly used labels as I have in the last decade.

          The small “l” liberal is the most stunning. ONLY “liberals” founded the United States and wrote its Constitution. Now it the term is used as an insult.

  2. These environmental stories all have that feel good quality until you start thinking “Who, including the Yasuni, is willing to give up all the goodies that oil represents?” These are some very hard choices that very few people want to face head on…

    1. I think there needs to be a balance struck between environmental concerns and the need for foreign capital investment in Ecuador. The problem is that international capital has no interest in balance, nor in developing a sustainable economy in Ecuador.

      International capital will not, for example, build factories in Ecuador so the country can put people to work at good paying jobs and produce the goods it consumes. Investors aren’t interested in making such investments in Ecuador’s economy, even though they would be profitable. The reason is that, from the view of foreign capital, such investments are not nearly as profitable as investing in unsustainable oil and mineral extraction.

      On the other hand, environmentalists need to come up with alternative plans for economic development that are environmentally sound, sustainable, and that have the potential to draw at least some international investment. To simply oppose all resource extraction without realistic alternatives is not a winning strategy. And developing eco-tourism is far from a panacea.

      1. I agree with your ideas. Also Ecuador is committed to sending oil to China for the next 10 years in repayment for loans. They have boxed themselves in. Ecuador’s natural resources should be used to help all Ecuadorians. This can be done with good environmental processes.

      2. Yeah, we won’t get into the IMF discussions but the fact is that Ecuador has some heavy loans with the Chinos and the IMF and will be using both mining and oil to pay these off regardless of internal environmental concerns.

  3. I don’t think they fit in with the current US or Chinese game plan for Ecuador’s resources.

    Additionally, I have to thank Larry. I was unaware that the definition of “Conservative” now precludes any interest in preserving the planet over extracting gold and fossil fuels.

      1. I AGREE RAY. It is a ugly national disgrace for Canada. It is one of our Prairie provinces. They also wear cowboy hats, boots, love guns and vote differently. And though their murder rate is still lower than the rest of the non-Canadian Americas (at 3-4 per 100k) I am from Quebec, a different culture, with the lowest murder rate in Canada at .8 per 100k and our population is many multiples bigger. Striking!
        I point this out to show what that murdering and a contempt-for-the-planet-in-favor -of-profit does. It expresses itself in pollution, exploitation and death.

        Quebec has different values. (It also has chaarcteristics I am ashamed of, but not in this area.)

  4. Stopping oil development in the Yasuni would be like putting toothpaste back in the tube, it’s not going to happen.

    What can happen though is to clamp down hard on the illegal logging/deforestation that’s happening in the Yasui now.

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