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Indigenous Protests Grow as Ecuador Auctions Amazon Oil Blocks

Hundreds contest “XI Round” oil licensing

Quito, Ecuador – Hundreds of indigenous people gathered outside the Marriott Hotel in Quito today at the VII Annual Meeting of Oil and Energy where the Ecuadorian government announced the opening of the XI Round, an oil auction in which 13 oil blocks went on sale covering nearly eight million acres of rainforest in the Amazonian provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago near the border with Peru.

Led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Nationalities (CONFENIAE) and representing seven indigenous nationalities, the group overtook the entrance to the hotel and were meet by military, police, private security forces and pepper spray. Several indigenous leaders entered the meeting and publicly confronted Minister of Non-Renewable Energy Wilson Pastor.

“CONFENIAE was never consulted about this,” said Franco Viteri, President of CONFENIAE. “Our position on oil extraction is clear: We are absolutely opposed.” Read the rest of this entry

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Ecuador’s President Correa Faces Off With Indigenous and Social Movements

By Roger Burbach. Roger Burbach is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA). This article first appeared on the NACLA Web page.

Quito, Ecuador. Beginning his fourth year as president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa confronts a major challenge from some of the very social actors that propelled him into office. In an address to the country in early January, Correa expressed his ire with a “coming series of conflicts this month, including indigenous mobilizations, workers, media communications, and even a level of the armed forces.”

While the country, amidst the global crisis, is facing a downturn in the economy and chronic electrical outages, the roots of the current confrontation run much deeper, to the growing disenchantment with the “Citizens Revolution” that propelled Correa into office in 2007 and formed the basis for his political organization, the Alianza Pais, or Country Alliance. Correa promised to re-found the country with a new magna carta and to rid the country of the corrupt partidocracia comprised of the financial and political elites that had imposed disastrous neoliberal economic policies on Ecuador for almost two decades.

Early on he enacted a series of social spending programs that have in part tapped the country’s oil revenues to assist the poorest and convened a constituent assembly that drafted a pluri-national constitution providing for ample public participation in the country’s social and economic institutions. Reelected president under the new constitution, he declared in his inaugural address last August 10 that the Citizens Revolution “adheres to the socialist revolution of the twenty-first century.” Read the rest of this entry