Murders of tribesman in Ecuador highlight controversy over proposal to auction off section of Amazon rainforest to oil companies
Ecuadorian society is locked in a fierce debate over president Rafael Correa’s move to auction off three million hectares of the Amazon rainforest to international oil companies, including in China.
Correa has come under intense domestic and international pressure over the sale, which seeks to use the country’s oil reserves to reduce the national debt. The South American nation owed an estimated US$7 billion – 10% of its GDP – to China alone as of last summer.
The auction process is now open, and will last until the end of May. The president has made efforts to advertise the sell-off around the world in recent months, sending a delegation to host a series of roadshows in Texas, Paris and finally Beijing on 25 March.
Companies such as China Petrochemical and China National Offshore Oil Corporation were present at the roadshow in Beijing and stand a good chance of winning the contracts. “Chinese companies are really aggressive. In a bidding process, they might present the winning bids,” said Ecuador's secretary of hydrocarbons, Andrés Donoso Fabara.
The tour was accompanied by protests from indigenous groups who say the proposed sale threatens their land and livelihoods.
The issue has been brought into even sharper focus in recent weeks following the tragic killing of some 20 members of the Taromenane tribe by members of the Huaorani tribe. Ecuadorian newspapers have been awash with suggestions that the murders, which happened on March 29, are indirectly linked to the presence of oil companies in the area. A report in the Columbian daily, El Commercio, said:
Eduardo Pichilingue, coordinator of the Observatory of Collective Rights, said in an interview broadcast on Radio Vision that the state of war between the two separate societies [huaorani and tagaeri-taromenane] is caused by external influences from the Western world, and has come about because “the politics of the protection of isolated indigenous tribes is incompatible with the country’s extractive oil policy.”
President Correa has hit back, saying that the deaths have “nothing to do with oil companies, it is a problem between tribes.” But many Ecuadorian groups are in any case vehemently opposed to the auction of new land, as they say the end result will be further degradation of the rainforest.
For the complete article, please see Chinadialogue.