In Ecuador, voters reject oil drilling in protected area of Amazon
Indigenous protestors in Quito, Ecuador (photo credit: Joaquin Montenegro Humanante/dpa/Alamy)
Ecuadorians voted against drilling for oil in a protected area of the Amazon, an important decision that will require the state oil company to end its operations in a region that’s home to isolated tribes and is a hotspot of biodiversity. With over 90% of the ballots counted by early [21 August], around six in 10 Ecuadorians rejected the oil exploration in Block 43, situated within Yasuni National Park. The referendum took place along with the presidential election, which will be decided in a runoff between leftist candidate Luisa González and right-wing contender Daniel Noboa. [...] Yasuni National Park is inhabited by the Tagaeri and Taromenani, who live in voluntary isolation, and other Indigenous groups. [...] The referendum is the result of a long and winding process. It started in 2007, when then-President Rafael Correa announced that Ecuador would refrain from oil exploration in Block 43 if rich nations compensated the poverty-stricken country. This was to be accomplished through establishment of a $3.6 billion fund, equal to 50% of the projected revenue from the block. However, the fund drew in only a small fraction of the intended amount. As a result, in August 2013, Correa declared Ecuador’s intention to proceed with oil exploration in the block. In response, Indigenous and environmentalist movements initiated a campaign under the banner of the Yasunidos movement, seeking to amass signatures for the referendum. After almost one decade of legal battles and bureaucratic hurdles, the Supreme Court ruled in May that the measure must be incorporated into this year’s election. [...] In a statement [on 21 August], Petroecuador said it would await the conclusion of the ballot counting before commenting on the referendum. The company added that it would comply with the decision of the Ecuadorian people. The referendum applies only to Block 43. Within the Amazon region, oil production extends to other sections of Yasuni park and into Indigenous territories. Accidents are commonplace, mostly through oil spills into the rivers.
Read the full article here: Associated Press