Social Issues

Indigenous blockade of Ecuadorian oil field to enter 5th week

Dicaro, Ecuador, Jan 20 (EFE).- Since Christmas, Waorani indigenous people have blockaded an oil field in this Amazonian village to force state-owned Petroecuador to honor the agreements that authorized crude production in Yasuni National Park.

Dicaro, with a population of roughly 300, is one of eight communities of Waorani – who lived in nearly complete isolation until the 1960s – located in Blocks 16 and 67, which were opened to drilling in 1994.

A succession of private companies operated those blocks until late last year, when the Ecuadorian government declined to renew the concession of the incumbent, preferring to award the territory to Petroecuador.

But the Dicaro residents insist that under Ecuador’s 2008 constitution, they have the right to decide whether Petroecuador can drill.

They also want action to address lingering damage from an oil spill that happened 15 years ago.

The Waorani say they will continue to block the access road to the oil field until Energy and Mines Minister Fernando Santos Alvite and Petroecuador CEO Hugo Aguiar come to Dicaro for direct negotiations.

“We want them to come here personally to talk and to reach an accord. If they don’t come, we will continue the shutdown,” community leader Robinson Coba told EFE.

The community is very unhappy with the way Petroecuador took over Blocks 16 and 67 “without notice,” resident Freddy Aviles said.

He stressed that Dicaro wants a bilateral agreement with Petroecuador, rather than a broader pact between the company and the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador (Nawe), which represents communities across three Amazonian provinces.

Many in Dicaro see Nawe as a mouthpiece for Petroecuador.

“We already have the proposals. We have sent them to the country’s maximum authorities and what we are awaiting now is the response,” Aviles said. “Those who come to the dialogue table must be representatives with the capability of signing the accord, because if not, the road will remain paralyzed.”

Dicaro residents say they fear the government will send in the army to clear the road by force.

In response to a query from EFE, Petroecuador said that it is up to the Environment Ministry to determine whether there are problems in Blocks 16 and 67.

Regarding Dicaro’s demand for prior consultation, the company said that the requirement laid down in the 2008 constitution does not apply to concessions granted before the charter was enacted.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines is forming an inter-institutional panel to initiate a dialogue with the people of Dicaro.

The blockade has had no measurable impact on oil output in Blocks 16 and 67, which continue to produce roughly 15,000 barrels per day, as Petroecuador has resorted to using helicopters to supply the installations. EFE iz-fgg/dr

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