The Pastaza Provincial court has upheld an April decision by a lower court prohibiting the government from pursing oil exploration on 180,000 hectares of Amazon territory claimed by the Waorani indigenous community. According to the Waorani and their supporters, the land in question is 90 percent virgin jungle.
In the April ruling, a court in Puyo ruled that the government used “deceptive tactics” in gaining approval for oil exploration from a small number Waorani members. In later deliberations, the community decided that the government had misrepresented the terms and conditions of the oil operation and that the community members who were consulted did not have the authority to grant oil rights.
A spokesman for Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment, which had appealed the April ruling, said the ministry has not decided if it will file further appeals. Argentina oil company Tecpetrol has expressed its interest in exploration but said it would not submit a concession bid until legal issues are resolved.
The April verdict was celebrated by environmental groups and the Waorani’s fight against oil production has become a cause celebre for such celebrities as Roger Waters, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.