Idle No More Turns Out in Solidarity with Achuar Leaders in Houston

Achuar and Shuar leaders traveled from the Amazon rainforest in early February to challenge the Ecuadorean government’s continued promotion of oil blocks in indigenous territory at an oil industry event in Houston, with support from a growing coalition of North American indigenous leaders, human rights organizations, and concerned citizens.

Thanks to a successful Avaaz.org petition that collected over one million signatures in little over a week and other media coverage, their message is being amplified more powerfully than ever.

Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston

“I came here to tell the government and the companies that our lands are not for sale,” said Jaime Vargas, president of the Achuar Nation of Ecuador (NAE), during the Houston, Texas protest in front of the North American Prospect Expo (NAPE).

Vargas continued: “Any drilling activities on our lands will be met with fierce resistance. We’ve seen the impact of oil extraction in Ecuador and the world and we know that it only brings contamination, poverty, and cultural destruction. We will defend our sacred lands and culture as we have for millennia.”

The Expo was the government’s latest stop on its world tour in search of investors for the oil blocks in Ecuador’s pristine south-central Amazon, home to seven ancient indigenous peoples.

Representatives from Idle No More Gulf Coast, Tar Sands Blockade, and other citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world, especially given the lack of a genuine process of consultation and the violation of indigenous rights. You can download and read the letter in English here.

“The Ecuadorian government is deceiving investors,” said Kevin Koenig, Ecuador Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. “These blocks are the most controversial in all of Ecuador, and there’s already a long list of companies who have tried to drill here and have failed. The government’s blatant disregard for the rights of these communities is not only illegal, but is a recipe for disaster for companies that attempt to drill in some of the most pristine regions of the Amazon.”

Avaaz.org Collects Over One Million Signatures for Amazon

Beyond the business risks for oil companies, more and more people worldwide are waking up to the potential disaster drilling in the pristine Amazon poses for humanity.  Late last month, an Avaaz.org petition calling on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to protect the Amazon from the devastation of oil exploitation received more than one million signatures from all around the world in little over a week, with new signatures coming in every day.

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election.  (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org and the Kichwa people of Sani Isla, who originally requested the petition, to build on the petition’s momentum and keep Ecuador’s Amazon in the international news.

On February 4, they convened a press conference in Quito during which the first million signatures were presented, part of a “wake up call” to the President to stand behind Ecuador’s inspiring Constitution.

Additional Resources

  • Avaaz.org petition – sign and share, let’s keep this issue on their front page!
  • Open letter from Ecuadorean indigenous leaders calling for solidarity English (download) and Spanish (online).
  • Coverage of the Houston protests by Telemundo Houston (in Spanish).
  • Analysis on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, oil, and Rights of Nature from author and Pachamama board member John Perkins