The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ecuador official: protect Indians from oil drilling

QUITO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Ecuador's attorney general on Saturday urged the government to negotiate with oil firms to stop drilling for crude in a protected area deep in the Amazon jungle where Indian tribes hide from the outside world.

That recommendation could affect operations of Spain's Repsol, Brazil's Petrobras, China's Andes Petroleum and Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador.

Those companies have part of their oil blocks inside the 700,000 hectare (1.7 million acre) protected area home to two tribes of hunters and gatherers known as Tagaeri and Taromenani who in 1950s decided to cut ties with the rest of the world.

"The attorney general's office considers urgent the exit of oil companies from the protected areas, via a negotiation," the office of Attorney General Xavier Garaicoa said in a statement.

The statement added that the government should include a ban on oil activities in the area in its ongoing negotiations with foreign firms to boost state participation in current deals.

President Rafael Correa, a former college professor who taught environmental economics, has vowed to protect the tribes from development after reports of deadly clashes between Indians wielding spears and illegal loggers armed with guns.

Ecuador wants rich countries to pay $350 million a year in exchange for it not extracting 1 billion barrels of oil under the Yasuni reserve. Quito says leaving the oil in the ground would protect the environment in the Amazon to the benefit of all countries.

In January, Repsol had a small oil spill near the protected area, which is also part of the Yasuni park, the country's largest rain forest reserve, home to rare species of pumas and pink dolphins.

The government said it will fine Repsol up to $100,000 for not reporting the spill to authorities earlier. The company said it spilled 100 barrels of crude while the government said it was 500 barrels of oil and 2,000 barrels of waste water.

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