ECUADOR DIGESTMayors back drilling in Yasuní; archeologists find ancient site in the Amazon; Ecuador drops suit against Colombia
Mayors from 30 towns in the Amazon basin are urging President Rafael Correa to continue his plan to drill for oil in the Yasuní nature preserve in northeastern Ecuador.
The mayors assembled in Quito last week, visiting members of the national assembly and members of Correa’s staff. In a prepared statement, they said that their communities need oil revenue to continue improvements to social and infrastructure projects.
Lago Agrio, mayor of Viteri, said the president and other elected officials should reject the arguments of those who would stop oil extraction. “We deperatly need basic services in the Oriente. We need better health care and roads and we need better schools and universities to educate our children,” he said. “We believe that oil drilling can be accomplished with an interest to preserving the environment.”
Meanwhile, the indigenous confederation CONFENAIE is calling for a one-year moratorium on plans to extract Yasuní oil.
Archeologists find oldest home in Amazonia
French and Ecuadorian archaeologists discovered in Ecuador’s Pastaza province the nearly 3,000-year-old remains of what appears to be the oldest home in the Amazon region.
“We found postholes and stoves and a few vestiges of ceramics and stones,” Stephen Rostain said.
He said they found the place near Puy two years ago and set up the camp in July when they excavated a meter (3 feet) deep over an area of some 90 square meters (970 square feet).
“Stoves built with stones are generally extremely old, from the Formative Period (1800 B.C.-500 A.D.). We took some samples that go back to a date some 3,000 years ago, and this year we found all the marks of the posts and some materials, with which we could reconstruct how the house looked,” he said.
With a diagram of the site, Rostain showed black dots that he said represented postholes.
“Connecting the dots, we have an oval house, similar to today’s houses, but this house is 3,000 years old. It is the most ancient house in the entire Amazon region…more ancient even than those we know in Brazil,” he said.
The “greatest discovery,” he said, was finding that whoever built the house used an upside-down tree trunk as a post, which is stuck down into the aquifer: “That economizes human labor, there’s no need to cut the trunk, it’s stuck in directly and in that way the tree doesn’t grow any more in the ground,” he said.
“Seeing the plants they ate we’ll get to know their diet, with the ceramics we’ll understand their art,” and from the kind of place they built the house, we’ll get an idea of their relationship with the environment, he said.
Ecuador drops suit against Colombia
Colombia and Ecuador have settled a law suit Quito filed five years ago with the International Court of Justice over the effects on Ecuadorian citizens, crops and livestock of Bogota’s aerial fumigations of coca near the two countries’ shared border, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday.
Ecuador formally dropped the suit during a meeting at The Hague involving representatives of both governments and the ICJ president, Santos said.
“It’s good news for diplomacy, good news for Colombia, good news for our relations with Ecuador and our regional relations,” the head of state said.
Ecuador brought the case to the ICJ in 2008, following several years of fruitless bilateral exchanges over the fumigation.
Quito said the herbicide that Colombian planes sprayed near the shared border was carried by the wind into Ecuadorian territory, causing environmental damage, livestock deaths and health problems for humans.
Bogota, meanwhile, said the herbicide – glyphosate, sold in the United States under the brand name “Roundup” – is innocuous and that aerial fumigation was necessary to combat the cultivation of coca, the raw material of cocaine.
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said late last month that an agreement with Colombia to drop the suit was “practically complete.”
Photo captions: The Yasuní; Colombian president Manuel Santos and Rafael Correa