Published On: Sat, Apr 27th, 2019

Ecuador Amazon tribe win first victory against oil companies

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A criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, accepts a Waorani bid for court protection to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration

Published 10:45 AM, April 27, 2019

Updated 10:45 AM, April 27, 2019

VICTORY. The president of the Coodinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador-Pastaza, Nemonte Nemquimo (C), celebrates with other Waorani indigenous people after a court ruled in their favor on the tribe's legal challenge to the government's land selloff in Puyo, Ecuador, on April 26, 2019. Rodrigo Buendia / AFP

VICTORY. The president of the Coodinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador-Pastaza, Nemonte Nemquimo (C), celebrates with other Waorani indigenous people after a court ruled in their favor on the tribe’s legal challenge to the government’s land selloff in Puyo, Ecuador, on April 26, 2019. Rodrigo Buendia / AFP

PUYO, Ecuador – Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous tribe won their first victory Friday, April 26, against big oil companies in a ruling that blocks the companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for oil exploration activities.

After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.

The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.”

Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state.

The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities.

The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders say they were duped.

The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose.

The ruling “has created a significant precedent for the Amazon,” said Lina Maria Espinosa, attorney for the plaintiffs, outside court.

“It has been demonstrated that there was no consultation and that the state violated the rights of this people, and therefore of other peoples.”

The Waorani, who number around 4,800, also inhabit other Amazonian provinces. – Rappler.com

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