To the rescue of Yasuní: popular consultation to stop oil extraction

Yasuní, one of the places with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, was in 2007 synonymous with “leaving the oil underground”, an innovative proposal that has influenced many processes of resistance to extractivism in the world since the Ecuador. Despite the difficulties along the way, the proposal is still alive and now faces a critical but also hopeful moment.

The proposal to leave the oil underground did not have enough political will. Neither at the national level of Ecuador nor at the international level. Governments and institutions around the world have had the opportunity to financially compensate the Ecuadorian government to commit to keeping the oil from part of the Yasuní National Park, the Ishpingo field, Tiputini and Tambococha (ITT ) forever in the jungle. A sum of money equivalent to a percentage of what Ecuador would enter into its coffers if the oil were extracted was to be added to a trust.

Not enough money was obtained, the amounts paid were well below what was expected and the Ecuadorian government then suspended the proposal, giving way in 2013 to oil exploitation in the oil blocks known as Ishpingo, Tiputini and Tambococha (ITT).

Since then, the two former presidents Rafael Correa and Lenin Moreno, as well as the current Guillermo Lasso, have filled their mouths with statements about the protection of the Yasuní, its incredible biodiversity and the importance of the indigenous peoples who inhabit it. These false promises did not prevent the extraction of oil and the overflow of all the limits established by themselves to minimize the impacts.

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Keep the oil underground to protect the Yasuní

Do you agree with the Ecuadorian government keeping ITT’s crude oil, known as Block 43, underground indefinitely? This is the question that the government should have asked all citizens before the start of oil exploitation in Yasuní. In 2013 and 2014, the Yasunidos collective worked tirelessly to save the Yasuní, taking as an alternative path a popular citizen consultation on the extraction of crude oil in the Yasuní-ITT jungle. They collected one by one 757,000 signatures.

However, although all the conditions were met, the request could not be executed. The body responsible for verifying these signatures claimed that the legally required number of signatures had not been reached.

Ten years of litigation delayed and prevented the holding of the popular referendum due to what was recently recognized as electoral fraud. With the difficulties encountered along the way, the Yasunidas and Yasunidos movement has come of age thanks to the young people who have given it life since 2013, such as Antonella Calle.

The new challenge of the lengthy process is that the Constitutional Court judge handling the case, Carmen Corral, must approve the matter through a constitutionality opinion. But he seems to be playing hard to get. We are also waiting internationally.

End of poverty for Ecuador?

The question is still valida”, denounces Antonella in front of those who try to diminish the value of the initiative in favor of oil exploitation. In fact, Yasunidos will recommend citizens to vote”Yeah“for the Yasuní, well”This is not true when it is claimed that exploitation in the ITT is the end of poverty for Ecuador. Oil revenues have exceeded forecasts and poverty is still there. They have only served to enrich a few in this country and to corruption. Money can be taken elsewhere without violating human rights and nature in Yasuní», is the reflection of Antonella with the Yasunidos collective.

Once the path is clear, progress can finally be made towards the goal of protecting biodiversity and promoting climate and intergenerational justice, and the genocide of the indigenous peoples who still live in isolation in Yasuní can be avoided. These are the reasons that maintain the Yasunidas unabated, despite the difficulties, with continuous actions such as occupations of ministries, sit-ins and other mobilizations in the streets of Ecuador.

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