Our work was carried out through a separate but closely aligned “sister” organization based in Quito, Ecuador—Fundación Pachamama. In partnership with the indigenous nations of the forest, we have managed to protect millions of acres of pristine rainforest from oil development. This work was so successful that in December 2013, officials of the government of Ecuador shut down the office facilities of Fundacion Pachamama and ordered the dissolution of the organization. This was a major setback, and yet the work of The Pachamama Alliance continues in Ecuador, despite the government’s action.
What Led Up to the Shutdown
The government’s action came on the heels of indigenous protests in late November 2013 against its plans to open some 2.6 million hectares of rainforest to new oil drilling, through an auction called the XIth Oil Round. The oil auction only received three offers, and was widely deemed a failure. President Rafael Correa lashed out in a nationwide television address, falsely accusing Fundación Pachamama of fomenting violence during a demonstration on the day the oil bids were being announced, though no members of the organization were involved.
The shutdown was an arbitrary act that repressed Fundación Pachamama’s legitimate right to disagree with the government’s policies, including its decision to turn over Amazonian indigenous people’s land to oil companies, in direct violation of their constitutional rights. Fundación Pachamama’s appeals of the government’s decision were denied, which closed the door to any further legal proceedings through Ecuadorian courts.
Exhausting legal proceedings in Ecuador, Fundación Pachamama took its case to a topic hearing titled “Situation of the Right to Freedom of Association and Environmental Defenders in Ecuador” at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington D.C. in March 2014. The next step will be to explore bringing a case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a process that will take several years.
Within days of the shutdown, nonprofit and human rights organizations throughout the world signed a letter of solidarity calling for the reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama, and hundreds of others issued individual statements of support, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Groups around the world continue to denounce efforts of the Ecuadorian government to repress civil liberties for the good of all social organizations that are at risk in Ecuador.
On several occasions in the first months of 2014, the former President of Fundacion Pachamama, Belén Páez, was invited to Europe to meet with and speak at numerous international gatherings to address the suppression of free speech in Ecuador. She remains a tireless commitment to partnering with indigenous people to preserve their rights to self-determination.
Our Work Continues Despite the Shutdown
Since 1997, Fundación Pachamama worked in solidarity with indigenous organizations of Ecuador’s Amazon to defend their rights and their homelands. It played a fundamental role in establishing Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s constitution.
Although there is no official NGO (non-governmental organization) structure through which we do our work in Ecuador now, the work of Pachamama Alliance in Ecuador continues as we support nine indigenous federations in their work to keep their self-determination and future planning for their own territory. None of that work has stopped during this transition time, and we continue to call for an oil-free Amazon.
In partnership with on-the-ground local experts, we continue to forward key projects that were underway before Fundación Pachamama’s shutdown. We work to present a new, sustainable vision for development in Ecuador’s Amazon and the country as a whole.