QUITO – Ecuadorian Indians demonstrated here outside the Energy Ministry to protest government plans for the start of oil production near their communities in the Amazon region.
In a statement, spokespersons for the Kichwa-speaking Indians of the Sarayaku territory denounced the “threat of intervention and encroachment” on their ancestral lands for the resumption of “oil drilling activities at so-called Blocks 23 and 24” in the southwestern provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago.
They also slammed “different public pronouncements by government authorities” indicating that “oil activities in those blocks will commence shortly.”
The Sarayaku representatives gathered in Quito to express their “firm and unshakable rejection of all interference by external actors seeking to enter (their territories) for extractive purposes.”
The Sarayaku people have for decades vehemently opposed oil operations on their ancestral lands, which the Indians use for hunting, fishing and agriculture, and recently have blocked the activities of Argentine oil company Compañia General de Combustibles, which is the operator of Block 23.
The area where the oil is to be extracted is littered with explosives, which both the operator and the communities accuse the other side of planting.
With their demonstration, the Sarayaku people reminded authorities of their “resolution,” adopted in 2002, to reject “any dialogue, arrangement or nationalization that is related to the goal of promoting oil production.”
“The so-called Blocks 23 and 24, imposed without consulting (the local indigenous communities) ... do not exist as far as the Sarayaku people are concerned because they are areas of life and property held by the Kichwa, Shuar and Achuar nationalities,” the text read.
They said “the irresponsible start of oil projects in the Sarayaku region would have an irreversible impact on the environment and culture” and alter “the social life of the families in the communities, causing major divisions.”
The statement also demanded the state recognize the lands in question as “sacred territory, a biodiversity and ancestral culture heritage site of the Kichwa people of Ecuador,” and strengthen “alternative economic models based on the natural environment”
“We won’t allow the Amazon region to be transformed into an industrial mining and oil camp, a zone of death, that threatens the life and safety of all Ecuadorians,” the statement said. EFE