Eye on the Amazon

Good News for Yasuní Park and Indigenous Rights!

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Last week, Ecuador's Energy Minister, Carlos Pérez García, announced that – at least for now – the government will not pursue oil drilling in the "buffer zone" protected areas of Yasuní National Park, reversing plans revealed last month in a leaked draft decree.

This is an important victory for our collective work to keep fossil fuels in the ground from California to the Amazon! We can say that with confidence because when the minister announced the decision, he clearly stated that it was made after meeting with Amazonian indigenous women and environmental group Yasunidos. The women and Yasunidos actively opposed drilling in Yasuní, and particularly in the buffer zone, which was created to protect the Tagaeri and Taromenane, nomadic indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.

In other words, civil society pressure to defend rights and ecosystems works! The Ecuadorian government seems to be finally recognizing that expanding the fossil fuel frontier deeper into Ecuador's Amazon presents risks to companies and creates problems for the state.

The minister also revealed that the government no longer plans to hold the "SouthEast Round" oil auction during President Moreno's tenure, another walk-back of previous plans and an additional indication of the power of the indigenous movement.

Not all is rosy news, however. Minister Pérez did indicate that the government will continue to pursue drilling outside the buffer zone, which the Amazonian women, other local indigenous organizations, Yasunidos, and Amazon Watch all oppose. After all, any new drilling in the Amazon puts the rainforest, indigenous peoples, and the global climate at risk.

The government appears to believe that if it postpones a final decision on drilling inside the buffer zone while approving it elsewhere, the pressure and risks will subside. What it doesn't understand, however, is that the resolve of the Amazonian indigenous women, Yasunidos, and their allies like Amazon Watch to defend indigenous territorial rights and protect the Amazon rainforest is unwavering.

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