[Marxism] Oil companies' resistance spurs threat of renewed fight in Ecuador

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Aug 30 05:55:27 MDT 2005



August 28, 2005
Ecuador Oil Protesters Threaten to Resume Attacks
Filed at 10:55 p.m. ET

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - Protesters who crippled Ecuador's vital oil
industry earlier this month threatened on Saturday to resume their
attacks, accusing energy companies of changing the terms of a settlement
reached on Thursday.

Protest leaders said they would meet on Sunday in the eastern oil town
of Francisco de Orellana to decide whether to resume dynamiting
pipelines and vandalizing pumping equipment in their attempt to force
companies to invest more in the poor Amazon communities where they

Oil company representatives and government officials could not
immediately be reached for comment.

The attacks, which started in mid-August, have throttled oil exports
important to Ecuador's economy and helped lift world crude prices.

Oil is Ecuador's No. 1 export. The country is South America's biggest
supplier to the United States after Venezuela.

Earlier this week, the protesters agreed to a ``good neighbor'' pact
with the government and private oil companies, promising to halt the
attacks in exchange for more local investment.

The protesters said the companies, which only agreed verbally to the
deal and did not actually sign the accord, were trying to loosen its

``The oil companies have completely changed the terms,'' protest
organizer Edmundo Espindola, mayor of the oil town Shushufindi, told

Oil companies including Occidental Petroleum Corp., Petrobras and EnCana
Corp. were to pave 160 miles of new roads within three years in
Sucumbios and Orellana provinces under the pact.

Sixteen percentage points of income taxes paid by the companies were to
be steered toward local health, environmental and development projects.

``They are no longer agreeing to the 16 percentage points, but only up
to 16 percentage points,'' said Espindola, who was among about 60
protest leaders in Quito for recent negotiations.

``Our agreement said the road construction would be done in three
years,'' he added. ``The companies are now saying it will be done when
possible, which means it could be in 10, 20 or 30 years.''

The companies would be more prepared than before to protect their
property, but Espindola said protesters will be able to find targets
should the attacks resume.

``The oil pipelines are very long and fragile,'' he said. ''Every
kilometer of pipeline cannot be protected.''

The crisis has presented the biggest challenge yet for President Alfredo
Palacio, who was appointed in April after Congress fired President Lucio
Gutierrez for meddling with the Supreme Court.

Three Ecuadorean presidents have been toppled in popular unrest since
1997, but analysts expect Palacio to ride out the current crisis.

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