The population of Ecuador decided in a referendum to suspend oil exploration in an area of Amazon forest on the border with Peru. The decision was taken this Sunday (20), during the elections that define the new president, in the midst of an electoral campaign marked by murdered candidates.
With 93% of the ballots counted, 59% of the voters had chosen to stop the activities of the state company Petroecuador in the Yasuni National Park, also known as block 43, one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity in the world and with the presence of isolated indigenous groups.
The Yasuni park has 1 million hectares and covers sectors of the Amazon and the Andes. Researchers estimate that one hectare of land can have more species of animals than in all of Europe and greater diversity of trees than in North America. Underground, however, is Ecuador’s largest crude oil reserve.
:: Presidential elections: the left takes the lead with Luísa Gonzáles and will run in the 2nd round against liberal Daniel Noboa in Ecuador ::
The decision obliges the government of Guillermo Lasso to progressively deactivate the exploration fields until October 2024. Block 43 is responsible for 12% of the country’s daily oil production. The estimated annual loss with the suspension of operations is US$ 1.2 billion (R$ 6 billion) equivalent to 0.1% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Ecuador.
The referendum was defended by the environmental collective Yasunidos, which a decade ago pointed to the need to put the issue to public consultation. “We are leading the world in the fight against climate change, ignoring politicians and democratizing environmental decisions”, declared Pedro Bermo, spokesman for the collective.
First country to ban oil by referendum, says OC
According to the Climate Observatory (OC), a network of Brazilian organizations that work on the climate agenda, the decision makes Ecuador the first country in the world to ban, by referendum, the exploitation of fossil fuels in an environmentally sensitive area.
The change puts the country at the forefront of abandoning fossil fuels among Amazonian countries. In Colombia, the Gustavo Petróleo government defined the adoption of a progressive plan to eradicate oil extraction in the biome. On the other hand, Brazil is trying to open a new oil and gas frontier in the Foz do Amazonas region.
“We hope that the Brazilian government looks to the Ecuadorian example and decides to do the only thing compatible with a future for humanity and with the leadership that Brazil wants to have in the fight against the climate crisis: leave the oil from Foz do Amazonas underground and support, when he takes over the presidency of the G20, next month, a global pact for the gradual elimination of all fossil fuels”, commented Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory.
:: ‘Great contradiction’ and ‘failure with the forest and the planet’: climate organizations criticize the Declaration of Belém ::
The abandonment of oil exploration in the Amazon was one of the main demands of popular movements and those linked to the climate agenda during the Amazon Dialogues, an event that preceded the Amazon Summit in Belém (PA). Indigenous and traditional leaders of the biome denounced the serious environmental impacts and demanded that the affected peoples be consulted in advance.
Even so, the Summit of Amazon presidents disappointed civil society organizations by not indicating goals to curb oil activity.
Left takes the lead in elections with unprecedented level of violence
Lawyer Luisa González, linked to former president Rafael Correa, and right-wing Daniel Noboa, will contest the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential election, indicate preliminary results released by the National Electoral Council (CNE) this Sunday (20). The data shows the two candidates with 33% and 24%, respectively.
In third place is journalist Christian Zurita, with 16.3%. Zurita appears on the list of candidates to replace Fernando Villavicencio, who was assassinated on August 9 of this year, two weeks before the election. Close behind is right-wing Jan Topic (14.6%). Otto Sonnenholzner, from the center, got 6.9% of the votes; and indigenous leader Yaku Pérez, with 3.7%.
During the campaign, violence rose to unprecedented levels: the mayor of a large city, a (right-wing) presidential candidate, and a historic leader of the left-wing Revolución Ciudadana party, which until then had led in the polls, were shot dead. Not to mention that a candidate for deputy from the same party survived an armed attack.
The murdered candidate was Fernando Villavicencio, an investigative journalist who became a candidate by waving the anti-corruption banner. He was killed in public, in broad daylight, just days before the last campaign debate. This is the climate of insecurity and instability that surrounds the election.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho