The Nacional Shiwiar territory of Juitsiniza
Little did I know, that I was an involuntary witness to the beginning of a long resistance for the national communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 2012, on my fourth day of my three week stay, deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the tranquillity of the forest was interrupted by an uninvited military helicopter that landed in the Shiwiar territory of Jusuintsa around the 21st of August. They were supposed to ask the Shiwiar community permission to do this, but neglected to do so. My heart began racing as we walked towards these uninvited guests. There was only one thing I could think of as to why they were intruding upon the Shiwiar territory unannounced, ‘Petroleum’. I shared my concerns with the community, we went to talk to the officers whom claimed they were simply mapping the area, as it had never officially been mapped before. I asked them if it was for oil, they denied it was.
Military mapping Shiwiar territory, Juintsa. August, 21st, 2012. Photo credit Author.
In October, 2012 I received some breaking news from one of my Shiwiar friends. Veronica Shiran, manager of the Shiwiar radio station for the whole of northern Ecuador in the Pastaza region, relayed to me, what was just announced to her community a few weeks ago, she said, “what this means for the Shiwiar and for the other indigenous communities of the Amazon is beyond their worst nightmares”.
On October 23, 2018, at the Hydrocarbons conference,Ecuador, Petroleum Company PetroAmazonias plans to increase its crude production and extraction of oil in the Amazon rain forest to 700,000 barrels per day until the year 2021. This month, the Ecuadorian government ministers declared they were going to enter oil blocks 85, 86, and 87. During the meeting of the mining and oil sector stated that Oil Blocks 85 and 86, Carlos Pérez, minister of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources declared there would be no problems to enter and drill in these blocks because there are no indigenous communities present there and therefore the impact would be minimal.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno blames that the economic situation he inherited from predecessor Rafael Correa and that the country’s accumulating debt stood at nearly $42 billion, without including other liabilities worth $8 billion. An inheritance with US loans on oil activities affecting the fall in oil prices, corruption in the government financial and oil sector and the devastating consequences of the April, 2016 earthquake.
However, the declaration Carlos Pérez made about blocks 86 and 87 being unoccupied is an inconvenient lie. Since, it is quite clear there are three indigenous ancestral territories with active communities on them affected by this proposal.
Personally, I have worked with the Shiwiar since 2011 and I sent many volunteers to the Shiwiar territory. I also stayed with the Shiwiar and had to fly in a small apache plane for an hour and a half, just to get to this amazing biodiversity hotspot deep in the Amazon.
Several serious grievances need to be highlighted here. Firstly, Carlos Pérez and the Ecuadorian Government are ignoring the obvious fact that these territories are occupied bv three important communities, the Shiwiar, the Sapora and Achuar.
Secondly, they have failed to legally consult the indigenous communities first and foremost, prior to any public proposals or conferences of any industrial activities. Indigenous groups in Ecuador have been recognised under the United Nations to which there exists a non-binding agreement, which gives indigenous groups the chance to defend their lives, land, and culture. Guaranteed throughout the Declaration is the right to a process of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” for indigenous peoples when faced with decisions, projects, or legislation by corporations or government that may affect their people and/or territory. Article 57, point 7 of the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador guarantees free, prior and informed consultation, within a reasonable period; however, this does not require consent (and is not binding). Article 82 refers explicitly to environmental consultation, in the case of a state decision which might affect the environment, and specifies broad and timely information for those affected. However, even if there is a majority opposing the project in question, it may still be carried out on the condition that the impact on those affected and the ecosystem is minimised.
Thirdly, Ecuador rewrote its Constitution in 2007-2008 and it was ratified by referendum by the people of Ecuador in September 2008. The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter for the Rights for Nature. Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. And the people – have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant.
Finally, The Escazu Agreement was adopted on March 4, 2018, in San Jose, Costa Rica, by representatives of 24 countries including Ecuador, the treaty implements Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, adopted at the Earth Summit in 1992, by establishing safeguards for access rights to the information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. The agreement also imposes specific obligations to protect from threats and attacks to people who defend human rights related to the environment, to investigate and punish any aggression against these people, and to guarantee their rights to life and personal integrity, as well as the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, movement, expression and association.
“All people have a right to a clean and healthy environment, making sure that all voices can be heard when it is time to take important decisions that affect us all,”-Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International.
The above video is a press conference set on the 23rd of October for the Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon Territories to Reject The XI Oil Round and the Declarations of Carlos Perez of the hydrocarbon ministry-
The presidents of 7 nationalities of Pastaza and Morona Santiago with the presidents of Confeniae, Conaie, expressed their resounding rejection of the bidding of oil blocks in the south central Amazon.
Edison Gualinga spokesperson for the Shiwiar Community
We the Shiwiar, have a duty to be able to transpose this manifestation of public in a progressive manner, we are here with our colleagues and united communities, the Achuar, and Confeniae, Conaie and representatives Sapara. We have planned to present our assembly to the Ecuadorian government. We understand that the government is negotiating to be able to make what is the new oil company in the South eastern territories of the Amazonias. We understand they want to do it in oil blocks 86 and 87, This means that the territorial Sapora, and Shiwiar, will be affected directly. Therefore, for this pain, we are not a sacrifice and we are deeply concerned. We have been resisting this exploitation for a long time but now it has come to a head. To the South in this province of Pastaza, we count fourteen communities and 4 associations, the communities of the Shiwiar and Sapora nationals.
Our demonstration is clear, companions, we, the Shiwiar of Ecuador, will fight when you enter petroleum to avoid fragmented communities and forest sites after the oil companies have impacted them. The Shiwiar nationality of Ecuador will never allow the entry of oil, why? Because we live in nature, we are dependent on nature, because no human being is independent of nature, we know it very well because every time they have been drilling they caused devastating contamination of seven mission companies of some foreign super states, thus making irreversible environment pollution.
The Nationality Shiwiar Ecuador, have two hundred and thirty eight thousand hectares where we could never allow, entry of these oil companies. We also work in conservation programs to protect and preserve the environment. We assembled earlier this year in July 20-21, 2018 for 14 communities and 4 associates and we made solutions.
We reject no prior consultation of our nationality and territory in 2012 and what other prior consultation or request that this is acknowledged in the future.
We strongly rejects the new round of oil in the south-east that pretends to register in the national government over our ancestral territory without prior consultation to us, the Shiwiar people.
The Shiwiar of Ecuador do not accept and categorically rejects that Petroamazonias has no prior consultation with our people, because all the prior informed consultation is transparent and sufficient. Everything so far reflects only corruption. where once were we consulted or informed prior to any activities? And when have our our communities or associations received consultations? We reject this lack of respect for our community and our association, for not seeking prior consultation with us. Shiwiar men, Shiwiar women, children, Shiwiar girls, the Shiwiar people would like to see oil companies respect our territory, because without this territory we can not live.
We do not allow oil companies to enter and I tell Carlos Perez of the ministry, we are not going to step back so that the oil companies can enter, we will always continue this fight because we have the rights to protect our territory. It is not a territory that exists for the sole purpose of oil or mineral exploits. It is a great university of nature and life for this community, we have our own rights in our territories, the same rights for education and health and seven more aspects, therefore regarding the rights to choose this way of life.
The above map clearly shows that blocks Carlos Perez claims are unoccupied and therefore would cause minimal impact are in fact occupied by the Achuar, Shiwiar, Sapora and Kichwa.
Nema Grefa spokesperson for the Sapora nationality and association
I am the president and representative the Sapora nationality, and we reject the drilling of block 86, 87, because this territory belongs to us, it does not belong to the government. We will be profoundly affected if the territory Saparo is entered by oil companies, and so the Shiwiar territory be directly affected. As a result we have unified all the nationalities and reject exploitation of these territories. Similar to as nationalities of Native Americans in the United States, we are organized so that our territories are not entered. In this case, we want to remind the government that our Sapora nationality has a patrimony, therefore the government must respect this. After recognizing this, they also need to respect all indigenous territories.
We reject as a nationality that if they want to enter, or if they open fire upon us, we get up here to say, the very reason they have ignored prior consulting with us or with the Shiwiar, we have a spear, with this spear we will continue to resist. Our nationality Sapora want the government and the Minister Senor Carlos Perez to respect our territory because we live with nature. The minister say’s nobody lives in this territory, but there are, five communities living in this territory, it is our territory and the biodiversity has a preservation value for the future of the planet, not for them to use is like a market to convert to money. That is why I have a threat, for them to understand is our territory. They always think they can exploit our territory without limitations, if we allowed that to continue, what happens is there will be no more biodiversity or jungle for the future of the planet. It is our responsibility to protect it and protect our territory.
Jaime Vargas, Manager of CONAIE,
Thanks for all the journalists who are here, right now it is a fundamental job that people of the Amazon region and the world need to know this reality. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador represents and supports our people, supporting this motion, supporting this voice that these people have and their human rights. Until the rights of our nationalities are respected. Our ancestral history tells that we have died while being ignored and we have died while being discriminated, this is what our parents and ancestors endured, now this is the same story for us, and more than 525 years of struggle we continue with it.
Today we support the Sapara nationality and the Shiwiar nationalities that are making these block 86 and 87 clearly known as their territories. When the minister of hydrocarbons, Carlos Perez declared that there are no indigenous people in these territories, that there are no communities, what a deception? Clearly, the territories of our communal people are on these blocks and are deeply affected. The Shiwiar nationality, if not also up to Kichwa nationality in this case, CONAIE are supporting these communities. We are vigilant, of rights of our nationalities and communities that you think you can buy and take from us. Remember, that our work is to defend the cosmovision and world view of the people’s of the nationalities. We are the guardians of CONAIE, so that these requests, and our territories remain protected. You cannot just walk into them, you need to respect and acknowledge the rights of the peoples nationalities. Thank you so much.
Julian, Spokesperson for the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador-
Where we are is in Morona Santiago, Thanks to all of the nationalities united here today, Nema Grefa, Andrés Tapia, Edison Gualinga, the Shiwiar, and others who are supporting us. The Achuar nationality would like to reject block 86 which are affecting our and threatening to damage the territories of the Shiwiar and Saparo communities and also it is not only affecting their territories, but also our Achuar territory. This is because our communities are adjoining the Shiwiar nationality. Therefore we say no to oil, wood and mining companies who cannot enter, therefore in the interest of the preservation of our united nationalities and territories, the Achuar’s is you are welcome if you want to help us preserve the forest and ourselves, then welcome, let us be gentle with the forest of our ancestors anchors, who are living in these territories. The oil companies do not have any business for development here in the Amazon, they have simply left contamination in nature every where they have been, this is the reason we reject their presence. So, therefore, we will continue to support these nationalities, which are understood by oil companies. Therefore, the president, Lenin Moreno, has to understand, they have to respect the decisions of the nationalities, also the minister Carlos Perez, of hydrocarbons, has to understand this, because we live with our own plans for life. With our own cosmovision in our territories, fulfilling our life plans, which is the profound project of each nationality. That has always been how we are united here, united by the nationalities to defend this territory. Thank you
Andrés Tapia spokesperson for CONFENIAE
The minister of hydrocarbons, Carlos Perez who made a declaration regarding the oil blocks 86 and 87, said there would be minimal impact in these blocks because there are no communities there. We reject this statement, made without foundation, we know the dynamics of the communities. In this case, what communities are present in these blocks?
Well, to start with the Shiwiar territory is in Block 86, consisting of four communities, also Juinitsa, and the Sapara territory, the Achuar national territory in block 85, and in block 87, and Jaco Jaco community that is Kichwa. Therefore, the declaration of Perez is a statement that has no fundementality and logically is only made for the obvious interest of the oil companies that seek to exploit these oil blocks. The other side of our lack of agreement, of the state of the reality of the life is of the nationalities, in our communities, each one of us have plans for life and plans in a fluent manner. Our our cultures exist, consisting of people, communities, relatives, families, men and women. There are territories of the best preserved areas of rainforest and biodiversity hotspots with our nationalities acting as guardians of the forest and preserving them, Achuar, Shiwiar, Sappora and Kichwa have our own plans to maintain conservation. This is what we wish to express for the struggle of our nationalities when we face exploitation.
Secondly, we want to express our total support to the nationalities in Pastaza for these special three nationals, Shiwiar, Sappara and Achuar who at this moment are giving their rare press appearance, to make this appeal. The 7 nationalities of Pastaza and the 10 organizations of Pastaza and in Morona Santiago, on the 23 of October in Quito outside the Marriott hotel, with the presidents of Confeniae, Conaie expressed their resounding rejection of the bidding of oil blocks in the south-eastern Amazon. Now the presidents say, what are the solution we can build for the Kichwa and Pastaza congress. Fittingly,the Kichwa nationality wish to keep their territory free of environmental pollution. The way our 7 nationalities are in Pastaza is very emphatic that this exploration is not realized.
– Finally, let us address Lenin Moreno’s government, what we know the minister is not going to repel back at our appeal, we address the Republican president and we want to know what kind of activity, prospector, socialization, to be very clear of the we were not given a prior consultation process, there is no knowledge of any type of socialization with our communities, or have there been no prior consultation with these affected communities, in this area, and as a result of this they are directly outraged. If we continue our national and international denunciation, like last week when we presented this, open letter to the public. So let’s do it and take action internationally as well as nationally. No more concession for oil and mining companies in the Amazon. We will continue to defend our territories. Thank you
The Ecological Value of the Amazon Rainforest.
The global reliance on oil makes all of us responsible for doing something to protect the Amazon, since the world’s dependence on petroleum is one of the major causes of its rapid destruction, which again means the decisions for its conservation measures lay with the international community, not just with the Ecuadorian government or with the other countries that the Amazon occupies. Rainforests are the basis for more than 5,000 internationally consumed products from herbal medicines, cures for cancer and popular food sources, furniture and clothing.
In terms of time, it took 3,500 million years for the Amazon rainforest to evolve and grow into the species-rich biodiversity hotspot wonder of the world. If it is destroyed, then it is gone forever, nothing can replicate or replace that, short of another 3,500 million human-free years. The western part of the Amazon Basin is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world; the level of biodiversity in the Ecuadorian Amazon is especially astounding. Just to put it into perspective, Yasuni national park contains around 600 species of birds and 170 species of mammals, 1,100 species of trees all in one quarter square kilometre area, and that is more species than in all of the U.S. and Canada, combined. Most people do not realise that much of the carbon released when a rainforest is destroyed is in the peat soil below the trees, it is not just in the trees but most of it is in the peat soils below which store thousands of tons of carbon, so they are invaluable carbon sinks, below the trees and this is key to help to regulating the climate. This means when deforestation occurs, all the carbon that was previously locked up in the peat soil below the rainforest is released into the atmosphere.
The Convention on Biological Diversity states that the Amazon contains more than 50 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. We must not discount the value of its undiscovered secrets for medical science and for humankind, as already, people are discovering plant-based cures for cancer that come from rainforest plants, there are over 60,000 plant species in the Amazon and only 3 percent have been studied for medicinal properties. Many of our foods come from the rainforest along with other important materials. There are thousands of undiscovered species of plants and animals still in existence, but we are destroying them at a pace which is faster than we are discovering them. Therefore, everyone’s opinion and actions are relevant and play on important role in defending this key ecosystem, as its devastation will be the devastation of all of us if we do not step in to defend what remains of the Amazon Rainforest.
by Carlita Shaw
The Silent Ecocide, a crisis of human consciousness.
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