[Marxism] Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 1 06:27:24 MDT 2013


Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

Indigenous groups claim they have not consented to oil projects, as 
politicians visit Beijing to publicise bidding process

     Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing
     The Guardian, Tuesday 26 March 2013 13.16 EDT	

Ecuador plans to auction off more than three million hectares of 
pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies, angering 
indigenous groups and underlining the global environmental toll of 
China's insatiable thirst for energy.

On Monday morning a group of Ecuadorean politicians pitched bidding 
contracts to representatives of Chinese oil companies at a Hilton hotel 
in central Beijing, on the fourth leg of a roadshow to publicise the 
bidding process. Previous meetings in Ecuador's capital, Quito, and in 
Houston and Paris were each confronted with protests by indigenous groups.

Attending the roadshow were black-suited representatives from oil 
companies including China Petrochemical and China National Offshore Oil. 
"Ecuador is willing to establish a relationship of mutual benefit – a 
win-win relationship," said Ecuador's ambassador to China in opening 

According to the California-based NGO Amazon Watch, seven indigenous 
groups who inhabit the land claim that they have not consented to oil 
projects, which would devastate the area's environment and threaten 
their traditional way of life.

"We demand that public and private oil companies across the world not 
participate in the bidding process that systematically violates the 
rights of seven indigenous nationalities by imposing oil projects in 
their ancestral territories," a group of Ecuadorean organised indigenous 
associations wrote in an open letter last autumn.

In an interview, Ecuador's secretary of hydrocarbons, Andrés Donoso 
Fabara, accused indigenous leaders of misrepresenting their communities 
to achieve political goals. "These guys with a political agenda, they 
are not thinking about development or about fighting against poverty," 
he said.

Fabara said the government had decided not to open certain blocks of 
land to bidding because it lacked support from local communities. "We 
are entitled by law, if we wanted, to go in by force and do some 
activities even if they are against them," he said. "But that's not our 

Amazon Watch said the deal would violate China's own new investment 
guidelines, issued jointly by the ministries of commerce and 
environmental protection last month. The third clause of the guidelines 
says Chinese enterprises should "promote harmonious development of local 
economy, environment and community" while operating abroad.

Fabara said he was not aware of the guidelines. "We're looking for 
global investors, not just investors from China," he said. "But of 
course Chinese companies are really aggressive. In a bidding process, 
they might present the winning bids."

Critics say national debt may be a large part of the Ecuadorean 
government's calculations. Ecuador owed China more than £4.6bn ($7bn) as 
of last summer, more than a tenth of its GDP. China began loaning 
billions of dollars to Ecuador in 2009 in exchange for oil shipments. 
More recently China helped fund two of its biggest hydroelectric 
infrastructure projects. Ecuador may soon build a $12.5bn oil refinery 
with Chinese financing.

"My understanding is that this is more of a debt issue – it's because 
the Ecuadoreans are so dependent on the Chinese to finance their 
development that they're willing to compromise in other areas such as 
social and environmental regulations," said Adam Zuckerman, 
environmental and human rights campaigner at Amazon Watch. "The message 
that they're trying to send to international investors is not in line 
with reality."

Last July the inter-American court on human rights ruled to prohibit oil 
developments in the Sarayaku, a tropical rainforest territory in 
southern Ecuador that is accessible only by plane and canoe, in order to 
preserve its rich cultural heritage and biodiversity. The court also 
mandated that governments obtain "free, prior and informed consent" from 
native groups before approving oil activities on their indigenous land.

A TV news report broadcast by the US Spanish-language network Telemundo 
showed members of Ecuadorean native groups – some wearing traditional 
facepaint and headdresses – waving protest banners and scuffling with 
security guards outside the Ecuadorean government's roadshow stop in 

"What the government's been saying as they have been offering up our 
territory is not true; they have not consulted us, and we're here to 
tell the big investors that they don't have our permission to exploit 
our land," Narcisa Mashienta, a women's leader of Ecuador's Shuar 
people, said in the report.

More information about the Marxism mailing list