[Marxism] Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms
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,"
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
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.
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