To the dismay of indigenous people of Ecuador and environmentalists worldwide, Ecuadorian officials met with Chinese oil companies to discuss plans of auctioning off more than 11,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest for oil exploration.
U.S. News is reporting the talks are taking place this week in Beijing. Although Ecuador is open to global investors, they seem to think aggressive Chinese companies might present the winning bid.
“Ecuador is willing to establish a relationship of mutual benefit – a win-win relationship,” Ecuador’s ambassador to China reportedly said at the Beijing meeting.
Several indigenous groups, however, have claimed they were not consulted about the plans. According to The Guardian, these groups have said the project “would devastate the area’s environment and threaten their traditional way of life.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, Ecuador’s constitution guarantees indigenous people “the right to be consulted and participate in decisions about the exploitation of nonrenewable resources that are located in their lands and that could affect their culture or environment.”
Last autumn, a group of Ecuadorean indigenous associations wrote the following statement in an open letter:
“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.”
Previous meetings to discuss the sale were protested in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, as well as in Paris and Houston.
[Photo of a rainforest clearing in Ecuador by blogger Libby Zay]