Ecuador's Indigenous Win Landmark Case Against Drilling

Waorani community attend court hearing | Photo: Facebook: Amazon Frontlines

By TelSur - 26 April 2019

This is not the first time that Lenin Moreno’s government has been criticized for their approach to the Amazon.

The Amazonian Waorani community in Ecuador celebrated a significant legal victory Friday. A court in the Pastaza region ruled that the government had violated their rights when it sought to drill for oil on their land.  

"Today, the courts recognize that the Waorani people, and all Indigenous peoples, have rights over our territories that must be respected," was how the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP) summed up the verdict.

Since March of 2019 the community has been engaged in legal proceedings against Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources arguing that the consultation that preceded sale of the land was faulty and manipulative. In Ecuadorean law, communities must be properly consulted before drilling is carried out on or near their land. 

The Waorani proved to the court that this didn't occur in this case.

Some of the inadequacies of the consultation included; no translations of documents into local languages, not enough prior notice before consultations, often meaning not enough community elders could be present.

Mitch Anderson of the environmental NGO Amazon Frontlines spoke exclusively to teleSUR following the historic verdict. He believes that this ruling could be used by other Indigenous groups to defend land rights, saying “this sets a historic precedent for other indigenous nations across the Amazon whose lands are earmarked for oil drilling”, he continued “what they did today was they showed the world that together they can win and they can set a precedent to protect their territory and essentially protect the Amazon for the rest of the world.”

Anderson is confident that the decision will not be reversed further down the line; "The government most likely is going appeal this decision and the Waorani have said very clearly that their land is not for sale and that they’re not going to allow for any oil extraction in their territory… what they showed in court is that the Ecuadorean government engaged in a pattern of deceit and manipulation in trying to earmark their lands for oil and I think the next courts will realise that as well.”

This is not the first time that Lenin Moreno’s government has been criticized for their approach to the Amazon. Moreno agreed to pay oil giant Chevron US$9.5 billion in reparations after the previous leftist administration of Rafael Correa had successfully forced the company to pay for the cleanup of an oil spill they caused.

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