January 14, 2013

Rainforest village prepared to die for their forest

The indigenous Kichwa people of Ecuador are preparing to defend their Amazon forest from one of South America’s biggest oil companies.

The indigenous community of only 400 villagers are trying to protect their 70,000 hectares of rainforest from Petroamazonas – the state-backed oil company, which will begin prospecting on 15th January, is backed by Ecuador’s public security forces.

Last year Kichwa community members rejected a financial offer from the oil firm because they were concerned about the long-term environmental impact of mining. They later learned that the chief of the village signed a contract giving the go-ahead for the oil exploration, even though the community members state he was not authorised to do so.

Patricio Jipa, the shaman and former community chief, says “If there is a physical fight, it is certain to end tragically. We may die fighting to defend the rainforest… We are now fighting against a signed contract. We must make people realise it is invalid but there is huge concern the oil company will move quickly to clear the land. When that happened elsewhere, they used armed troops, beatings and abductions to remove those who stood in their way.”

Earlier offers by the oil company of a new school, university places for village children and better healthcare were dropped in the document, which provides compensation of only $40 (£24) per hectare, according to The Guardian. The community secretary, Klider Gualinga, said more than 80% of the village is opposed to the oil deal, who are launching a last-ditch legal attempt against Petroamazonas.

Source: The Guardian


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