Ecuador will send its first domestically produced satellite into orbit in late April from a launch centre in China, according to President Rafael Correa.
"At the end of the month, the first Ecuadorian satellite will be launched, not a satellite bought from a foreign country but one made in Ecuador," Correa said in his weekly radio address Saturday.
He noted that the Pegasus “nanosatellite” will be small, measuring 10cm. X 10cm. but the mission is “just the beginning of our space program.”
The satellite, equipped with 75-cm panels and weighs 1.2 kg, will be launched April 26 from China, was built by the Ecuadorian Civil Space Agency, which is headed by the country's first astronaut, Ronnie Nader.
The satellite will be carried into orbit by an unmanned rocket and transmit live video signals to an Ecuadorian ground station, which will decode them and then upload them live to the Internet.
"Pegasus" was initially scheduled to be launched last September, but that date was pushed back because another satellite that was to have been carried by the same rocket was not ready.
Indigenous leaders continue to oppose oil auctions
The leaders of Confenaie (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, by it Spanish name) and the leaders of several tribes say they reject the expansion of oil exploration in the Amazon rainforest, set to begin in the next few months.
The Ecuadorian government recently announced it would auction blocks in the northeast corner of the country that are believed to contain 1.5 billion to 2 billion barrels of oil.
Franco Viteri, Confenai president, asked the government to halt the 11th Round Oil Auction, especially for the block of land in the province of Pastaza. Viteri says the consultation over the Pastaza oil blocks violated the Constitution, and the process has caused confusion and conflict among the indigenous that live on the land.
“Our land can’t become a war zone between our peoples, just to push a hydrocarbon extraction policy,” said Viteri.
Luis Armas, president of the Sapara Nation, said that an internal division in his group can be attributed to actions by the National Secretariat of Hidrocabons. He said oil extraction policies are destructive and are weakening the organization.
Jaime Vargas, the president of the Achuar, says that the 11th Round Oil Auction is an attack on nature and on those who live in nature.
“What the Sucumbiós brothers are going through is regrettable. We’re not willing to let this history repeat itself. We reject all hydrocarbon extractive activity in our territories. We are going to defend the futures of our children,” he said.
Animal rights supporters push national legislation
A proposed law to protect domestic animals introduced in March in the National Assembly is meant to establish standards for the care of animals: to protect their well-being, health, hygiene.
The law was drafted to address Article 71 of the Constitution, which reads: “The State will incentivize natural and legal persons and collectives of persons to protect nature, and will promote respect for all the elements that conform an ecosystem.”
With this clause in mind, Lorena Bellolio, president of the organization Ecuador Animal Protection (PAE) says it’s the third time they’ve gone knocking to the door of Ecuador’s legislative body to draft a bill.
The original draft included the protection of both domestic and wild animals, proposed by Assembly representative Saruka Rodríguez.
But the Biodiversity Committee in the Assembly decided it would be complicated to lump all animals together. So they’ve settled on protections for companion animals: dogs and cats.
Miguel Jumbo, associate dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the Central University of Ecuador, this bill is very positive. “It compels us to be conscious about the responsibility that having a pet entails. A pet is another member of the family. The regulation is so pets aren’t used for dissection, as science projects, and protects them from esthetic surgeries like tail cropping and ear clipping.”
Jumbo is also in favour of getting owners to pick up after their dogs on walks, and prohibiting dogs from running free in parks, to avoid attacks on people or other animals.
And Veronica Boguña, from the foundation Animal Rescue Operation (GORA), is in favour of the clause against selling animals in cages in window fronts.
“The animals are in tanks, in hot weather, standing and lying in their own waste, and it’s all for a business, to make a profit. Young animals should be with their mothers, and they can be sold by presenting photos to potential buyers.”
Boguña says the only way to reduce the number of street dogs is to educate families about animal care. “You can’t ask that there be no street dogs when you don’t first educate people. And I don’t mean giving out flyers: I mean going neighbourhood by neighbourhood and school by school to train adults and children and achieve social change.”