Updated 04:21 PM EST, Tue, Jan 19, 2021

Ecuador Sells Oil Exploration Rights to China

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Spanning across eight developing countries in South America, the Amazon Rainforest is known as the indicator of the health of our planet. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the 90 to 140 billion metric tons of carbon that is said to be contained in the area helps stabilize local and global climate. Any deforestration or damage can result in catastrophic consequences.

This is why the Brazilian government's decision to sell oil exploration rights in a corner of the Amazon to a Chinese state-owned oil company appalled indigenous groups in the country, said The Los Angeles Times.

While the deal from Andes Petroleum Ecuadoe and the government covers only part of the Amazon, the area is still an appalling size of 1.5 times the area of Los Angeles. This covers a total of 500,000 acres and enough to destroy the rainforest ecosystem and threaten the endangered cultures, including two indigenous tribes -- all these risks for a deal worth about $80 million.

Adam Zuckerman, an environmental and human rights campaigner at the Amazon Watch in Oakland said, "That's essentially the only Amazon in Ecuador that hasn't been devastated by oil operations."

In 2013, while negotiations were still ongoing, Zuckerman spoke with The Guardian, sharing that according to his understanding, the government's decision was more of a debt issue. He shared, "it's because the Ecuadoreans are so dependent on the Chinese to finance their development that they're willing to compromise in other areas such as social and environmental regulations."

The oil blocks affecting the deal overlaps with the home of the indigenous group called the Sapara, which currently consists of only 300 members. The group was declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the turn of the century by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] due to their small numbers and disappearing language.

The Daily Star also noted that last year, a court ruled that government must obtain "free, prior, and informed consent" from native groups before approving oil activities that embark on their native land, and this hasn't been the case. Narcisa Mashienta, leader of one of the seven indigenous groups in the area,said that the government did not consult with them, adding that herself and the Shuar people are ready to tell the Chinese investors that they have not been given permission to exploit the land.

Jorge Herrera, president of the Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said that the government is directly responsible for the damage that the deal will strike to their villages, accusing the government of having double standards and double morality. "The project is illegitimate and illegal. It is against our villages and against nature," he said.

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