Activists Protest in Canada Over Amazon Oil Auction in Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador – Labor unionists, aboriginal activists and environmentalists on Wednesday called for the Ecuadorean government to suspend its auction of oil concessions in the country's Amazon rainforest, said Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based nongovernment organization.

In a press release, Amazon Watch said protesters gathered in Canada and delivered a declaration of opposition from five of Ecuador's indigenous nationalities whose rainforest communities would be affected by the concessions.

The protest came as Ecuadorean government officials met with Canadian investors and oil-company executives Wednesday at the Telus Convention Center in Calgary to promote the licensing round.

The government called the 11th oil-licensing round last November and said that companies interested in participating have until May to prepare their offers. Winning bidders must sign contracts by November.

The licensing round was called for 13 blocks in Pastaza and Morona Santiago provinces, located in the southeastern Amazon region. Additionally, state-run oil company Petroamazonas will negotiate directly with foreign state-owned counterparts to jointly develop three blocks in the area.

"We have here a declaration of opposition coming from the indigenous communities whose lives and livelihoods will be devastated by these is extremely important for the children and grandchildren of these people that this project does not go forward," Michelle Thrush, an award-winning actress and aboriginal activist who protested the meeting, said in the release.

The indigenous groups claim that the Ecuadorean government hasn't obtained free, prior and informed consent, an internationally recognized human rights benchmark that is intended to protect the rights of indigenous communities whose lives and lands are affected by extractive mega-projects such as oil drilling.

The Ecuadorean government has said that the process was handled in accordance with both the constitution and Ecuadorean laws, and winning bidders will be required to adopt the highest technical, social and environmental standards in exploring and developing oil prospects in the relatively untouched area near the border with Peru.

According to Amazon Watch, one million people have signed a petition calling on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to cancel the oil round.

The contracts for the 11th licensing round will provide a four-year exploration period and a 20-year development period, if commercial discovery of oil is made.

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