Indigenous Amazonian women demand end to extraction

The women waited at the presidential palace on Monday for almost six hours, carrying anti-extractives banners, wearing traditional clothing, occasionally chanting, and vowing not to leave before speaking directly to the president. They returned to the same place Tuesday and Wednesday, and waited all day while continuing to demand a meeting with the president and making speeches through a loudspeaker in a central plaza.

But according to officials, Moreno could not attend to the group since he was out of town, on his way home from Chile, where he had been traveling for work.

Waorani leader Alicia Cahuwia told Mongabay that indigenous women have long been having meetings with the Secretary of Political Management (an arm of the presidential office that serves as a mediator between citizens and government activities), but the government body “makes false promises” that create conflict and divides indigenous communities, so they feel that it cannot be trusted.

Paredes told Mongabay that Moreno’s government has made several advancements with the indigenous community compared to the last administration of Rafael Correa, particularly in the areas of bilingual education and reinforcing free, prior and informed consent regulations for mining projects. Despite these advancements, there are several points within the women’s mandate that the president likely will not accept, added Paredes, particularly those relating to ceasing oil extraction activities.

Ecuador’s economy has long depended on oil and gas for economic stability and growth. On Tuesday, while the Amazonian women were outside the presidential palace, Moreno launched a bidding round for foreign companies to invest in Ecuador’s oil and gas sector, hoping to raise another $800 million and explore new reserves.

The list of demands

In their official mandate, the women demand that all oil and mining activities in the Amazon rainforest stop, particularly several projects currently underway in the Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Oil extraction has been happening near Yasuni for over ten years, however several new oil projects are encroaching on the protected territory of the non-contacted indigenous communities, the Tagaeri and Taromenane.

The groups is also demanding that all contracts be cancelled for future extraction projects, immediate cleanup of environmental damage caused by the extractive sector, and amnesty “for fellow Shuar nationality who have been Evicted and persecuted politicians, so that they can return to their communities Nanktints and Tundayme,” the document states.

Amazonian women protesting in Quito, Ecuador, on March 12, 2018. Photo by Jonatan Rosas.

They also make it clear that they are opposed to the prior consultation process as it is being practiced, which requires that oil and mining companies consult communities who live near areas where they plan to begin extractive activities.

“We reject the socializations or ‘consultations’ by extractive projects because in our decision-making spaces we have already decided no more extractive projects in our territories, and our right to self-determination must be respected. In addition, ‘socializations and consultations ‘ do not meet or comply with international standards of free, prior and informed consent as stipulated in the in the case Sarayaku vs. the Ecuadorian Government,” it reads.

But some of the mandate’s top priorities also include issues more specific to women. This includes the need to stop the increase of sexual violence in these areas where extractive industries operate.

“There are a lot of drugs, prostitution, alcoholism, a lot of things that women get involved in, whether they want to or not, for a bit of money,” Sandra Tukup, a Shuar leader from the Amazonian province of Morona-Santiago, told Mongabay.

This story first appeared on Mongabay

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