Ecuador's Bitter Choice

Becker, Marc
Date Written:  2014-01-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20340

Becker analyzes the politics behind the decision to extract petroleum from Ecuador's ecologically fragile Yasuní National Park.



Given the importance of the Yasuní, Indigenous and environmental activists began advancing ideas for a plan to exchange preservation of the park for international economic development aid. Not drilling in the pristine rainforest would both protect its rich mix of wildlife and plant life, and help halt climate change by preventing the release of more than 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

When Correa was elected president, he incorporated those ideas into what became one of the most popular proposals of his government. About 90% of the country’s population supported leaving the petroleum in the ground. Correa used an Indigenous proposal to advance the popularity of his government, and in exchange his government gave a social movement proposal global visibility.

According to the original Yasuní-ITT plan, in exchange for forgoing drilling in the park, international donors would contribute $3.6 billion, half the estimated value of the petroleum as of 2007, to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for health care, education and other social programs. Despite broad local and international support for the plan, donors were not forthcoming with contributions.

After six years, the fund had only collected $13 million in donations with $116 million more in pledges. On August 15, 2013 Correa announced that because of a lack of contributions he would cancel the Yasuní-ITT initiative. "The world has failed us," Correa stated in a news conference. "With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government."

He blamed the world's hypocrisy for failing to support the innovative proposal with financial donations. "We weren't asking for charity," Correa said, "we were asking for co-responsibility in the fight against climate change."

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