Yasuní, one of the places with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, was in 2007 synonymous with “leaving oil underground”, an innovative proposal that influenced many processes of resistance to extractivism around the world from Ecuador. Despite the difficulties along the way, the proposal is still alive and is now facing a critical but also hopeful moment.
The proposal to leave oil underground did not have enough political will. Neither nationally in Ecuador nor internationally. Governments and institutions from around the world had the opportunity to financially compensate the Ecuadorian government for committing to keep the oil from part of the Yasuní National Park, the Ishpingo, Tiputini and Tambococha (ITT) field forever in the jungle. An amount of money equivalent to a percentage of what Ecuador would enter its coffers if the oil were extracted should be deposited in a trust.
Not enough money was obtained, the amounts contributed were much lower than planned and the Ecuadorian government at the time suspended the proposal, giving way in 2013 to oil exploration in the oil blocks known as Ishpingo, Tiputini and Tambococha (ITT).
Since then, former presidents Rafael Correa and Lenin Moreno, as well as the current Guillermo Lasso, have filled their mouths with declarations about the protection of the Yasuní, its incredible biodiversity and the importance of the indigenous peoples that inhabit it. These false promises did not prevent the extraction of oil and the overflow of all the limits established by them to minimize the impacts.
Keeping oil underground to protect the Yasuni
Do you agree with the Ecuadorian government keeping ITT crude oil, known as block 43, indefinitely underground? This is the question the government should have asked all citizens before oil exploration began in Yasuní. In 2013 and 2014, the Yasunidos collective worked tirelessly to save the Yasuní, taking as an alternative route a popular citizen consultation on the extraction of crude oil in the Yasuní-ITT jungle. They collected 757,000 signatures one by one.
However, despite meeting all the requirements, the query could not be carried out. The body in charge of verifying these signatures claimed that the legally required number of signatures had not been reached.
Ten years of litigation postponed and prevented that the popular citizen consultation was carried out by what was recently recognized as electoral fraud. With the difficulties encountered along the way, the Yasunidas and Yasunidos movement has grown into an adult thanks to the young people who have given it life since 2013, such as Antonella Calle.
The new challenge of the long process is that the Constitutional Court judge responsible for the case, Carmen Corral, has to approve the issue through an opinion of constitutionality. But she seems to be playing hard to get. We are also waiting internationally.
End of poverty for Ecuador?
“The question is still valida”, claims Antonella to those who try to reduce the value of the initiative in favor of oil exploration. Indeed, Yasunidos will recommend citizens to vote “Yes“for the Yasuní, well”It is not true when it is argued that exploitation in the ITT is the end of poverty for Ecuador. Oil revenues have exceeded forecasts and poverty still exists. They only served to enrich some in this country and to corruption. Money can be withdrawn from other parts without violating Human and Nature Rights in Yasuní”, is Antonella’s reflection with the Yasunidos collective.
Once the path is open, progress can finally be made towards the goal of protecting biodiversity and promoting climate and intergenerational justice, and the genocide of the indigenous peoples that still remain can be avoided. live isolated in Yasuni. These are the reasons that keep the Yasunidas restless, despite the difficulties, with continuous actions such as occupations of ministries, protests and other mobilizations in the streets of Ecuador.