Government shuts down environmental rights group opposed to oil drilling, claims it is ‘affecting public peace’

Dec 5, 2013

Fundacion Pachamama, an indigenous non-profit organization opposed to President Rafael Correa plan to drill for oil in Ecuador’s eastern jungles, says it will fight the government order to shut down its operations.

chl pacha1In its Wedneday order, the government alleged Pachamama was involved in a disturbance last week against members of foreign diplomatic delegations during protests against a licensing round for oil properties. It was charged, along with Yasunidos, another advocacy group, with attacking Chile’s ambassador Juan Pablo Lira. Ecuador’s Interior Ministry justified the shut-down based on a charge of “affecting the public peace” and interfering in government business.

Pachamama officials deny all allegations. “We are peaceful,” said Joke Baert, a Pachamama spokeswoman. “We defend human rights and environmental rights, and we have never promoted or supported violence. The government should carry out a deep investigation.”

Mario Melo, lawyer for Pachamama, said the NGO is analyzing the government’s decision and will file legal action against in national and international courts, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Pachamama  has worked with Yasunidos is an environmental group that is collecting signatures to ask for a referendum on development of the ITT oil block, located at Yasuni National Park, famous for its biodiversity.

Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas will begin developing the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil block in 2014 and could start production in 2016.

In June, the Correa administration issued a decree that creates new procedures for NGOs to obtain legal status. The rules require international organizations to undergo a screening process to seek permission to work in Ecuador and grants powers to the government to oversee and dissolve NGOs. The government claims that many NGOs interfere with government affairs and are funded from courses outside the country.

Photo caption: Representives of Fundacion Pachamama meet the press on Thursday, explaining their legal strtegy after the government shut-down.

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