Eye on the Amazon

Indigenous Leaders Confront Ecuadorian Government in Houston

Jaime Vargas, President of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador and Narcisa Mashienta, community leader from the Shuar Nationality of Ecuador

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Indigenous leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon have traveled to Houston to challenge the Ecuadorian government face-to-face during its XI Round oil concession promotional activities around the North America Prospect Expo (NAPE), the oil prospecting industry's semi-annual trade show where government officials scheduled meetings with oil company executives and investors seeking to auction off a vast swath of pristine Amazon rainforest.

Jaime Vargas, President of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador; and Narcisa Mashienta, community leader from the Shuar Nationality of Ecuador will be in Houston until Thursday. They are joined by North American indigenous leaders and human rights groups including concerned citizens from the Tar Sands Blockade, Idle No More Gulf Coast and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.) in a collective effort to raise attention and call on the Ecuadorian government to suspend its tendering of oil concessions that threaten to devastate the rainforest and the native communities that live there.

Yesterday the coalition garnered international attention protesting outside the Westin Oaks Houston Hotel as the Ecuadorian government launched its latest bidding round and roadshow. They later confronted government officials at both an information session hosted by the government, and in a hotel where private meetings with oil company executives and investors were being held. Today when Narcisa, Jaime and the Amazon Watch team arrived at the doors to the official NAPE event – tickets in hand – they were denied entry.

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Hydrocarbons, the Committee of Hydrocarbon Tender, and the state-run oil company Petroamazonas plan to sell 16 Amazonian blocks, covering nearly ten million acres of primary forest and indigenous land in the Southeastern Ecuadorian Amazon. The area is home to six indigenous nationalities: the Shuar, Achuar, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Andoa, and Sápara. In none of the blocks has Petroecuador obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), an internationally recognized human rights benchmark intended to protect the rights of indigenous communities whose lives and lands are affected by extractive mega-projects such as oil drilling.

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