Jaime Vargas NAE XI round press conference_3

On October 24th, representatives of indigenous nations whose ancestral land is under threat from the Ecuadorean government’s 11th Oil Round convened a press conference in response to an announcement from Ecuador’s Minister of Nonrenewable Natural Resources, Wilson Pastor, the previous week.

Pastor publicly announced that Ecuador would move forward with the next phase of the oil round on November 28th, when they will formally invite energy companies into the bidding process for oil development on nearly 10 million acres of pristine, undeveloped rainforest that is also home to seven indigenous nationalities.

The assembled leaders issued a statement through CONAIE, a national organization representing all of Ecuador’s indigenous nationalities, detailing the failure of the government’s “consultation” process, their continued rejection of oil development, and their right to resist and mobilize if their rights are not respected.

Indigenous Nations View Oil Round As Potential Genocide

The statement affirms that the Achuar, Shuar, Shiwiar, and Sápara nations, as well as the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, will not allow the entrance of oil companies in their territories.

They hold that the new oil round is more than just a threat to their peoples’ health and wellbeing–the potential impact of this project could amount to genocide for these ancient nations.

Franco Viteri, president of CONFENIAE, a regional organization representing Ecuador’s Amazonian indigenous nationalities, highlighted further the difference in perspective between the government and the Amazon’s indigenous peoples:

“We reject the insults of the President [Rafael Correa of Ecuador]. We are not poor people, especially not when wealth is measured by other parameters. Our plurinationality and interculturality also need to be properly understood.”

Consultation Process Does Not Comply with Ecuador’s Commitments

Minister Pastor’s announcement reflects the Ecuadorean government’s belief that it has met all its legal obligations with respect to indigenous communities, and that oil companies are now free to begin their due diligence and put together auction bids for the land.

Amazonian indigenous leaders maintain that nothing could be further from the truth.

They point out that the so-called previous consultation process the government has begun does not comply with:

  • International Labour Organization Convention 169 signed by Ecuador
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling in the case of Sarayaku v. Ecuador
  • Ecuador’s own constitution

All three establish standards for free, prior, and informed consultation with indigenous peoples before projects that impact their lands or cultures can move forward.

“We Are Never Opposed to Dialogue”

The press release details the indigenous perspective of the one-sided “consultation” process.

“The consultation is not free, because government representatives are imposing themselves in indigenous territories, against the will of the communities and nationalities.

“It is not informed because it is not bringing facts or truthful data about the social and environmental impact of oil activity, only propaganda and an intent to divide families and communities.”

“Why are you coming to consult with us if the opinion of the seven nationalities [whose land is at risk] is not going to be taken into account?” asked Jaime Vargas, president of the Achuar Nation of Ecuador (NAE).

“We are never opposed to dialogue,” added Franco Viteri, reinforcing the view of the government’s approach as unilateral.

Exercising Their Right to Resist: Indigenous Nations to March Together

Through the official statement, indigenous nationalities emphasize their right to resist oil development and announced that they will be mobilizing in the coming weeks, including a planned march to Quito.

“Our resistance will be peaceful,” said Manuel Mashient, president of the Shuar Nationality of Ecuador. “We are also Ecuadoreans and we want to be taken into account. We want to contribute to the development of the country.”

On Thursday, November 15th, a number of our indigenous partners will update the global Pachamama Alliance community on their resistance to the 11th Oil Round at our Annual Luncheon.

RSVP now to join us online