Activists Mobilize to Protect Critical Rainforest, Traditional Indigenous Tribes, and Millions Of Animals: Yasuní National Park in Ecuador in the Crosshairs

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December 19, 2013 | Global Greengrants Fund

By Mike Seager, Yasunidos volunteer

Last week, activists in Ecuador announced they have gathered more than 150,000 signatures of Ecuadorians concerned about the fate of the Yasuní National Park.

Arbol-del-Yasuni.jpg-199x300 The Yasuní National Park is part of the Amazon rainforest, and has been called the most biodiverse location in the Western Hemisphere. An average hectare in Yasuní contains about 650 tree species, more than the total amount of native trees in the continental United States and Canada combined. The park contains 630 species of birds and hundreds of other species of mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles, and as many as 100,000 insect species, which is the highest estimated diversity per unit area in the world for any plant or animal group.

Activists launched the effort to save this precious forest when the Ecuadoran government announced that a state-run oil company, Petroamazonas, would commence oil exploration and extraction within the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini section of the Yasuní National Park.

This section of the national park also represents part of the territory of the Taromenane and Tagaeri people, two of the last indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation in the country, and some of the last remaining in the world.  The proposed oil extraction violates the indigenous right to territorial protection as described in the Ecuadorian Constitution.  However, loopholes in the legal system have allowed the government to move forward with its plans to explore and exploit oil reserves within the national park, which will impact indigenous territory, and may lead to the contact or demise of these tribes.

The People of Ecuador Can Save the Park

The Yasunidos campaign seeks to gather around 600,000 signatures by April 2014 in order to send a question about the Yasuni drilling proposal to a national referendum.  The civic group has led the signature collection campaign throughout the country, organizing public forums and discussions, signature collection outings in various Ecuadorian cities and towns, and has trained volunteers to collect signatures throughout the country.  If successful in gathering the 600,000 required signatures, the question will be placed on the ballot and all Ecuadorian citizens will vote whether or not to leave the national park intact. Thus, the country’s citizens would have a direct voice in the issue, and could save the park from oil drilling.

Signature-Collection-300x199“So far, we are achieving our daily signature collection goal of 3000-5000 per day,” says Jorge Espinosa, one of the Yasunidos volunteers.  “We are confident that we are going to collect the 600,000 signatures.”

Yasunidos describes itself on its international blog as a united civil society movement to “demand respect for the human rights of the un-contacted peoples…We demand that our Ancestral and Natural Heritage is not sacrificed and opt for post-oil alternatives. We urge for a truthful and transparent debate about our economic model and our energy base. Also, we demand that the government let us show our disagreement through the legitimate exercise of protest without repression and criminalization.”

The Government Retaliates

On Wednesday December 4, the Ecuadorian government dissolved the Pachamama Foundation, an environmental and human rights organization and former Global Greengrants grantee, that has worked to strengthen sustainable livelihoods, improve education and health with indigenous peoples of the Amazon for more than 16 years.  The government alleges that staff from the Pachamama Foundation were involved in “acts of vandalism” at a recent protest.

campania amazonia por la vidaHowever, the government has not presented evidence of the foundation’s involvement in the protests. Pachamama has denied the accusations, and argues that the government has chosen to repress the organization’s legitimate right to peaceful dissent. The Pachamama Foundation has been a leading organization in the signature collection campaign and has expressed its disagreement with government oil sector policies.

“This is an example of a sanction being put in place against a legal entity without granting the entity’s basic right to defend itself,” Mario Melo, legal representative of the Pachamama foundation, said.  “There was no warning that they had been processed and would receive a sanction.  This is a violation of due process, but more importantly, it violates the right that we all have, to express how one feels about a public policy.”

How You Can Help

In order to support the signature collection campaign, and help save this immensely important piece of the Amazon rainforest, please consider donating through the Greengrants webpage here.

Your donation will go directly to the Yasunidos campaign.

  • $25 dollars will support one volunteer trip to rural Ecuador to spread the word about the Yasunidos movement, gather signatures, and discuss the importance of protecting the Yasuní National Park.
  • $60 dollars will pay for a weekly newspaper advertisement needed to promote the referendum question.
  • $100 dollars will enable Yasunidos to print 300 flyers about the campaign.
  • $200 dollars will enable Yasunidos to rent an auditorium to hold a forum to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the Yasuní.
  • $450 dollars will cover the production of a television advertisement that will encourage the Ecuadorian people to sign in favor of the referendum.

Photos by Pato Chávez

Supporter campaign in the USA

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Another group of YASunidos has been formed in the USA. Their basis is located in three States:  New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. A warm welcome and thank you for this video!

Attac France support YASunidos

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La lutte pour Yasuni se poursuit ! Soutenons-là !
Laisser le pétrole dans le sol pour une alternative écologique et sociale post-fossile !

Le 15 août 2013, le président équatorien, Rafael Correa, signait un décretannonçant mettre fin à ce qui était sans doute l’initiative écologique la plus originale de ces dernières années : laisser le pétrole des champs ITT du parc Yasuni dans le sol.

Après avoir été portée par les mouvements sociaux, écologistes et indigènes équatoriens dans une perspective de défense des droits des populations indigènes et de protection de la biodiversité amazonienne, la proposition Yasuni est devenu le symbole de la traduction en actes des nouveaux droits et principes intégrés dans la nouvelle Constitution équatorienne de 2008. La proposition Yasuni a été reprise et portée par Rafael Correa et le gouvernement équatorien au sein des arènes internationales, en ajoutant aux arguments écologiques et sociaux l’exigence d’une compensation économique, comme un geste de solidarité internationale face à « l’effort » équatorien consistant à ne pas exploiter le pétrole des champs ITT. Sur les 3,6 milliards escomptés de la communauté internationale par la présidence équatorienne en compensation de cette non-exploitation, seuls 13 millions de dollars ont effectivement été récoltés et 116 millions promis. « Le monde nous a lâchés » a estimé Rafael Correa qui a engagé en août dernier le « Plan B », annoncé de longue date, celui qui ouvre à l’exploitation du brut afin de « financer la lutte contre la pauvreté », notamment en Amazonie. Le président équatorien considère qu’il devait choisir entre « un parc Yasuni 100 % préservé et ne pas avoir d’argent pour lutter contre la pauvreté, ou 99 % du parc intact et disposer de 18 milliards de dollars » tirés de l’exploitation pétrolière. Il a choisi la seconde option, tout en promettant des techniques qui minimisent l’impact écologique sur la zone concernée.

N’acceptant pas que le président équatorien ait annoncé vouloir mettre fin au projet, les organisations sociales, écologistes et indigènes qui furent à l’origine de l’initiative ont repris le flambeau de l’initiative Yasuni en critiquant les arguments du président équatorien. Selon elles, il est impossible de préserver 99% du parc Yasuni des conséquences de l’exploitation pétrolière en raison des caractéristiques extrêmement polluantes du brut qui sera extrait et parce que plus de 30 % de la surface du parc fait déjà l’objet de prospections et d’exploitations pétrolières. Quant à la lutte contre la pauvreté, ces organisations font remarquer qu’elle ne dépend pas de l’exploitation de Yasuni puisque la pauvreté résulte des structures injustes de répartition des revenus en Equateur et qu’un relèvement limité des taux d’imposition des entreprises privées permettraient de récolter bien plus que la rente pétrolière escomptée et ce, sans limite dans le temps. En plus de vives protestations et manifestations, plusieurs actions juridiques et légales sont en cours. Ainsi, les plateformes YASunidos et Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia ont décidé de s’appuyer sur le fort rejet de l’exploitation de Yasuni par la population équatorienne – certains sondages indiquent jusqu’à 90 % d’opposants – pour initier une procédure visant à convoquer un référendum d’initiative populaire. Objectif : collecter près de 600 000 signatures, soit 5 % de l’électorat équatorien, pour exiger un référendum sur la question suivante : Etes-vous d’accord pour que le gouvernement équatorien maintienne indéfiniment sous terre le (pétrole) brut du bloc Ishpingo, Tambococha et Tiputini (ITT), connu comme le bloc 43 ?

Attac France, avec de nombreuses autres organisations en France et dans le monde, a toujours soutenu cette initiative Yasuni, comme un pas supplémentaire dans la critique de la civilisation du pétrole qui a généré l’anthropocène et comme un exemple emblématique des initiatives à promouvoir et mettre en œuvre dans une perspective post-pétrolière et post-extractiviste, de préservation des communs de l’humanité et de survie des populations indigènes.

Dans une suite logique, Attac France a décidé de soutenir le projet de référendum d’initiative populaire porté par les organisations équatoriennes en faisant connaître l’initiative auprès de ses adhérents, comités locaux, membres fondateurs et partenaires et en les invitant à soutenir financièrement cette initiative.

Fighting for Yasuní at COP19

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It is not only here in Ecuador that people are hitting the streets to demonstrate for the rights of nature. At COP19 in Warsaw, Polen, people marched dressed as clowns, polar bears, penguins with large inflatable globes and a variety colorful banners to call for action now!

Today, Tuesday November 19th, activist from the Danish NGO, IBIS, finally manage to get a hold at the official, Ecuadorian delegation attending the Climate Summit in order to declare that a large number of the Danes support the Ecuadorian civil society in their struggle for protecting the Yasuní National Park and their demand for a referendum on the issue. Also they clarified that they will continue to monitor developments in Ecuador along with many more civilian organizations worldwide.

The theme of Yasuní is certainly more than an Ecuadorian matter and an international concern is definitely present.

Yasunid@s en Alemania se manifiesta frente a la Embajada

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El pasado 1 de octubre un grupo de Yasunid@s en Alemania se manifestó frente a la Embajada del Ecuador en Berlín, mostrando su rechazo a la explotación del Yasuní.

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Pacto Mundial Consciente Brasil se manifiesta por el Yasuní en el mundo

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No Equador vivemos uma perigosa polarização que faz com que nos enfrentemos entre irmãos, devido ao discurso dualista do presidente, que, conforme ficou evidente em muitas ocasiões, não o interessa nem a vida dos povos isolados, nem toda a imensa biodiversidade que habita o Yasuni, de um lado solicitava doações ao mundo para não extrair petróleo do subsolo do acima mencionado Parque Nacional – Reserva Mundial de Biosfera e em parte da Área Intangível – enquanto por outro lado avançava com os processos que permitiriam as atividades petroleiras nestes lugares. A sociedade civil apresentou uma série de alternativas que permitiriam dispor dos fundos que tal extração forneceria, são propostas de menor impacto em populações vulneráveis e, ainda que não erradicassem a pobreza, como argumenta o presidente, evitarão o etnocídio e o genocídio que será a atividade petroleira no Yasuni. Já foram mortos Waoranis e Tagaeris, estes em condições absolutamente inferiores, pois, ao manterem-se isolados, suas armas mais perigosas são lanças de chonta, enquanto seus adversários possuem armas de fogo. O mesmo governo ordenou uma investigação e organizou uma comissão para isso, e agora seus porta-vozes negam a existência dos Tagaeris e Taromenanis. O povo protesta nas ruas e nas praças de suas cidades, e tem sido agredido e reprimido por forças policiais, ameaçados e violentados desde o discurso presidencial em cadeias e sabatinas, assim como por grupos favoráveis ao governo. É um momento em que suas palavras ajudarão a Assembléia, encarregada pelo presidente de declarar a extração de petróleo nesta área protegida como de interesse nacional, a decidir pela vida dos povos isolados e de todas as espécies que habitam o Yasuní, e a decidir dizer NÃO a estas atividades neste espaço de selva equatoriana. É urgente a mobilização para animar todos que anonimamente, sem bandeiras partidárias, movidos unicamente pela defesa do que cremos e daquilo que diz em nossa Constituição e nos Tratados Internacionais assinados pelo Equador com relação aos direitos humanos, em particular sobre povos isolados, bem como para colocar em prática tudo aquilo que mencionamos na Declaração do Pacto Mundial Consciente, por nossa convicção de que seja possível um mundo diferente em que respeitemos todos os animais e a natureza. Quer ajudar-nos? Escreva para: info@yasunidos.org http://www.yasunidos.org