Tag Archive | "ecuador"

Ecuador Officially Recognises Same-Sex Civil Unions


Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Same-sex couples in Ecuador will be able to officially register their civil union from today, considered an important step in tackling discrimination in a country where gay marriage is illegal.

Resolution 174, which was emitted in August by the Civil Registry and came into effect today, allows same-sex unions to formalise their civil status on national identification documents. The measure will afford same-sex couples the same civil rights as heterosexual partnerships, including on matters of estate and medical consent.

“The gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual communities have the full constitutional right to include their civil union on their ID cards,” said President Rafael Correa after the resolution was approved.

From today, same-sex couples can register their civil union in offices in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, though this will later be rolled out across the country.

Trans activist Diane Rodríguez, who has campaigned for equal rights as founder and head of the organisation ‘X Silhouette’, described the measure as a “huge step forward.”

“For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital. Or at the bank, we can open a joint account. Before this, couples had a lot of problems because they had no documents to prove they were married,” Rodríguez, who will be among the first to exercise her new right with her transsexual boyfriend today, told Think Progress.

While the LGBT community celebrates the reforms, same-sex marriage remains illegal in Ecuador, with Correa himself saying that he did not support it. According to the country’s constitution, same sex couples are not allowed to marry or adopt children.

Rodríguez acknowledged that much work was still needed, but said the priority was to ensure that the LGBT community is granted the same constitutional rights as all citizens.

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Ecuador: Officers Sentenced to Prison for Attempting to Kill President


The unrest on 30-S started with police protests at proposed salary cuts (photo/Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

The unrest on 30-S started with police protests at proposed salary cuts (photo/Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Six police officers were sentenced to 12 years prison by a court in Ecuador yesterday, weeks after being found guilty of the attempted murder of President Rafael Correa during the 2010 police uprising.

The officers had been found guilty by the courts on 1st August, and received the maximum sentence permitted for the crime of attempted murder of the president.

The six were found guilty of shooting at Correa outside the police hospital during a military operation to rescue the president after a 12-hour siege. As he escaped, Correa’s vehicle received a hail of bullets, while one of his bodyguards was shot and killed. “You can see these people in videos with guns, with their faces covered and ready to shoot at the president,” declared prosecutor Gustavo Benítez in the trial.

30-S

On 30th September 2010, police protesting changes to benefits revolted, going on strike, blocking roads, and taking over the main airport in Quito. Correa visited the main barracks to negotiate with the leaders of the rebellion, but was injured after a tear gas canister exploded near him.

Police then surrounded the hospital in which Correa was receiving treatment, leaving the president trapped for several hours until loyal military troops broke him out. Clashes on the streets led to 10 deaths and over 270 injuries.

The revolt was immediately condemned as an “attempted coup” by the Union of South American State (Unasur).

Earlier this year, an investigation into the events of ’30-S’ concluded that the incident was support by political and economic opposition. Oscar Bonilla, member of the commission, said: “Those responsible were political actors, military organisations, sectors of the police and members of the Armed Forces that joined the action, and real local powers links to international groups who also planned the events from outside of the country.”

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Ecuador: Earthquake Leaves Three Dead, Several Injured


quito earthquakeA 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck near the Ecuadorian capital of Quito yesterday afternoon, killing at least three people and injuring at least a dozen.

Two deaths occurred when several construction workers were buried by a landslide while working on a bridge in Mitad del Mundo, 26km north of Quito. One of the bodies was found in the area this morning as rescue efforts continued. Authorities say one other person remains missing.

The third fatality was that of a 4-year-old boy who was alleged crushed by large bags of rice that fell during the earthquake.

A state of emergency remains in place in the worst affected districts. However, transport services resumed as normal today, including at Quito airport, which was closed for several hours yesterday.

President Rafael Correa expressed his sorrow for the deaths last night, noting that illegal mining activity destabilises the ground and increases the risk of landslides. “Of course, the earthquake caused the landslide,” said Correa, “but the earth was already fragile due to illegal mining and quarries exploited without technical expertise.”

Dozens of aftershocks have been registered since the first tremor, which occurred at approximately 3pm local time yesterday.

Earthquakes are relatively common in Ecuador. The worst disaster in recent history occurred in 1949, when a 6.8-magnitude tremor killed more than 6,000 people.

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Ecuador Signs Free Trade Agreement with European Union


Ecuador's bananas are excluded from the deal

Ecuador’s bananas are excluded from the deal

After four years of negotiations, Ecuador has joined the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union, Colombia, and Peru. The accord means that Ecuadorian exports will enter the EU without duties, providing the Andean nation with a new market of 500m inhabitants.

Ecuador’s foreign trade minister, Francisco Rivadeneira, called the agreement “ambitious”.

He said: “After nearly four years of work, today we finally closed a balanced accord with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, minimises costs, respects the country’s development model, and protects our sensitive sectors.”

President Rafael Correa announced on Monday that an agreement could be signed this week, underscoring that the country had negotiated “higher thresholds” than its neighbours, and adding that the most difficult negotiations had been over agricultural produce. Bananas, one of the country’s biggest exports, are excluded from the deal.

The latest deal means Ecuador now enjoys free trade with 28 more nations, adding to the country’s previous agreements with China, India, Russia, and most of its South American neighbours.

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Ecuador: Ex-President Mahuad Sentenced to 12 Years


Former Ecuadorian president Jamil Mahuad (photo: Wikipedia)

Former Ecuadorian president Jamil Mahuad (photo: Wikipedia)

Former president of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of embezzlement.

The case looked into Mahuad’s responsibility in the 1999 baking crisis in Ecuador, as he was accused of ordering the closure of banks for several days and freezing the accounts of ordinary citizens in order to protect bankers. The judge in charge of the case, Ximena Vintimilla, pointed out that embezzlement does not always involve a direct appropriation of funds, but can also mean the use of mechanisms for funds to be used in a fraudulent manner.

Earlier this week, Interpol had issued a red notice for Mahuad, who was tried in absentia, as he moved to the US after being deposed in 2000.

The first instance ruling, published on Thursday, may still be appealed by Mahuad’s defence. The former president claimed the case against him was politically motivated and blamed president Rafael Correa of interfering with the country’s judiciary.

 

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Ecuador: Correa Backs Constitutional Reform, Indefinite Re-election


President Correa expresses joy over his victory (Photo: fotospresidencia5 on Flickr)

President Correa after his 2013 victory (Photo: fotospresidencia5 on Flickr)

On Saturday, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa announced his support for a plan to reform the country’s constitution, allowing for indefinite re-election for all elected public posts.

“I have decided to ask our bloc of parliamentarians with this overwhelming majority that the Ecuadorian people gave us, to reform the Constitution of the Republic to establish indefinite re-election for all elected public posts, so that it is the Ecuadorian people who freely decide the continuity or alternation of their leaders,” he announced to a standing ovation in the National Assembly.

The announcement comes just days after the government’s Alianza PAIS joined with the Socialist Party in backing the idea of constitutional reform. Together the bloc has 100 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, far more than the two-thirds needed for the measure to pass. The constitution requires there be two debates on the issue, the second held one year and one month after the first, which is likely to take place before October of this year.

If the measure is passed, it will come into effect before the 2017 elections, paving the way for Correa to stand for a third term. So far, he has not announced plans to stand for re-election.

It is the first time such a measure will be passed in the Andean nation, which has seen 20 different constitutions since independence. The current, 2008 version of the constitution differed from its 1998 predecessor in allowing for re-election, so that officials could hold their posts for two simultaneous terms.

 

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Ecuador: Government Gives Go Ahead to Oil Exploration in Yasuní


Yasuní National Park (photo: Joshua Bousel on Flickr)

Yasuní National Park (photo: Joshua Bousel on Flickr)

Ecuador’s environment minister yesterday signed the environmental licence to permit oil exploration in two fields in the Amazon. The national oil company now has the green light to begin exploration in Tiputini and Tambococha fields, the latter of which is located within Yasuní national park.

Once the document is endorsed, Petroamazonas EP will be able to start clearing access routes and setting up the exploration camps. It is predicated that the first barrels of oil will be extracted in March 2016.

The move has sparked outrage from groups who have been challenging exploration in Yasuní, saying it goes against the national constitution. Last month, the group Yasunidos presented a petition with 750,000 signatures, enough to call for a national referendum on oil exploration in the Amazon. However, in a controversial decision, that campaigners have called fraudulent, the National Electoral Council invalidated a third of the signatures, leaving Yasunidos short of the 583,000 needed to force a ballot on the issue.

The national park was at the centre of the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a proposal spearheaded in 2007 by the Ecuadorian government to refrain indefinitely from extracting the nearly 850m barrels worth of oil reserves in the Yasuní National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or US$3.6bn. But in August last year President Rafael Correa said the initiative has only raised US$13.3 million, less than 1% of the target, and as a result the government was reluctantly approving oil exploration.

However, the sincerity of the government’s intentions was called into question in February, when it was revealed that, while publicly persuing the initiative, the government was secretly negotiating a US$1bn deal with the Chinese to drill for oil.

As well as being a national park of 9,823km2, Yasuní is a Unesco biosphere reserve, containing pristine Amazon rainforests and home to two uncontacted tribes.

 

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Anti-Chevron Day Marked by Protests


Yesterday saw protests against oil giant Chevron take place in Buenos Aires and Neuquén. The demonstrations were part of International Anti-Chevron Day, a global movement against the corporation organised by a coalition of campaigners from Argentina, Ecuador, the US, Nigeria, and Romania.

Under the slogan “We intend for the whole world to take a stand against corporate abuse and illegality”, protests took place in more than 30 cities in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the US, and Canada. Public figures called for boycotts of the corporation, and #antichevron became a top trending topic on Twitter throughout the day.

Anti-Chevron protesters braved the rain in Buenos Aires (photo by Hera Chan)

Anti-Chevron protesters braved the rain in Buenos Aires (photo by Hera Chan)

The movement was spearheaded by the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén (CMN), made up of 63 communities from around the province. The CMN led yesterday’s protests in Neuquén, where it denounced last year’s agreement between Chevron, YPF, and the province to exploit the Vaca Muerta oil and gas reserves, where the controversial technique of fracking will be used. The CMN also reported violations of the collective rights of the communities near the Vaca Muerta field. Yesterday’s Neuquén demonstration was accompanied by a smaller protest outside Chevron’s headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Large demonstrations also took place in Ecuador, led by the Union of Texaco’s Oil Operation’s Victims (UDAPT), and with the backing of various members of government. On Tuesday, President Rafael Correa welcomed the international participation in Anti-Chevron Day.

In yestereday’s protest, the UDAPT demanded the clean-up of Texaco-Chevron’s contamination in the Amazon, and for the reparations which have been granted to be paid. Ecuadorian authorities affirm that, for the almost 30 years it operated in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Texaco spilled 16.8m gallons of oil into the ecosystem, as well as 18.5bn gallons of toxic water into the land and rivers.

One of more than 880 pits dug by Texaco in the Amazon to store crude oil waste in the open (photo courtesy of Chevron Tóxico)

One of more than 880 pits dug by Texaco in the Amazon to store crude oil waste in the open (photo courtesy of Chevron Tóxico)

The oil company has refused to comply with a 2011 ruling that ordered it to pay US$9.5bn compensation to the more than 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants affected by negligent oil extraction by its Texaco subsidiary from 1960 to 1990. Controversially, the corporation then retaliated to the ruling by obtaining an injunction from a US judge, and successfully suing the plaintiffs for using “corrupt means” to obtain the ruling in Ecuador, including bribery. The plaintiffs are currently appealing the ruling, pointing out close ties between the oil giant and the US judge.

In launching the International Anti-Chevron Day earlier this month in Neuquén, the CMN published a Global Declaration of the Victims of Chevron’s Practices, signed by over 75 organisations from around the world. The declaration, which was read at all of the protests yesterday, demands that Chevron acknowledges its responsibility for all the damage it has procured to the environment and human rights.

The international day of protests was timed to take place a week before the oil giant’s annual shareholders’ meeting, set for 28th May.

 

 

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Ecuador: Cargo Ship Runs Aground in Galapagos


There are fears the wreck could contaminate the islands' pristine waters (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are fears the wreck could contaminate the islands’ pristine waters (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Local authorities have asked the Ecuadorian government to declare a state of emergency after a cargo ship ran aground in the Galapagos Islands on Friday.

Galapaface I was stranded after leaving Wreck Bay, near the entrance to the harbour of the archipelago’s capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal in the early hours of Friday morning. The ship was carrying 10 tonnes of cargo and 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and there are fears of the environmental consequences of it running aground on the islands, which lie 900km west of Ecuador and are a biological marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site.

San Cristobal’s Emergency Operations Committee — which is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Environment through the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Ecuadorian Navy, Galapagos Governing Council, police and fire departments, and more — quickly developed an Action Plan to prevent and mitigate any environmental damage and free the ship from the rocks where it was stranded.

Technicians have placed preventive spill containment booms and absorbent pads around the ship and are working to extract the fuel onto a local fuel transport barge.

A coordinated effort is also taking place to unload the cargo and reduce the ship’s weight to help free it from the rocks, and several National Park boats are stationed around the Galapaface I to assist as needed and to monitor potential impacts. The Emergency Operations Committee has requested extra support from mainland Ecuador to help salvage the ship.

 

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Latin America News Roundup: 9th May 2014


Protest against the World Cup in January (photo: Agencia Brasil/Télam/ddc)

Protest against the World Cup in January (photo: Agencia Brasil/Télam/ddc)

Brazil – World Cup Worker Dies on Same Day Stadium Unveiled: Brazilian authorities have confirmed that another has died in an accident during the construction of a World Cup stadium. Mohammed Ali Maciel Afonso, 32, was hit by an electrical discharge and suffered a cardiac arrest while installing communications equipment in the Pantanal Arena, located in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso. He is the ninth worker to be killed in an accident while constructing the 12 new stadiums that are being built for the tournament. The incident took place on the same day that president Dilma Rousseff unveiled the Itaquerão Stadium in São Paolo, which will host the tournament’s opening ceremony on 12th June. The inauguration was marred the first in a series of protests due to take place by the Urban Resistence coalition, under their anti-World Cup campaign “Copa sem povo, tô na rua de novo’ (Cup without the people, to the streets again). The coalition includes the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and Landless Workers Movement (MST), among other organisations. Before entering the stadium, Rousseff addressed leaders of the MTST, who earlier this week occupied a terrain just 3km from the stadium demanding the speedier construction of social houses. 

Brazil – Evictions Due to Hydroelectric Projects in Amazon up 76%: The number of families who were evicted from the Amazon due to the construction of dams and hydroelectric projects rose 76% during 2013. According to Land Conflict report, released yesterday by the Pastoral Land Commission, in 2012, 1,700 people were evicted, compared to 3,100 the following year. “In contrast to the rest of Brazil, where the number of evictions of families has dropped in comparison to 2012, in the Amazon the opposite has happened. The number of forced evicted grew 11% and the number who were displaced 76%”. The report went on to highlight that in the Amazonian state of Arce, the number grew 1,038%. The majority of the evictions took place in the north and north-east. The report’s release comes days after Peruvian NGO Dar released a report warning of the environmental consequences of the hydroelectric projects functioning, and planned, in the Amazon, which total 412, the majority of which are in Brazil.

Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador (photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador (photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Ecuador – Law Firm Withdraws from Amazon Pollution Case Against Chevron: Patton Boggs, the Washington law firm representing Ecuadorian indigenous communities seeking damages from Chevron for pollution in the Amazon, has withdrawn from the case and agreed to pay the oil giant US$15m in compensation. In the settlement reached on Wednesday, the law firm also said it “regrets its involvement in this matter”, though rejected all accusations of wrongdoing. The surprising decision comes after a four-year legal battle in New York courts, in which several key decisions have favoured Chevron. On 4th March, a New York federal judge ruled that the US$9.5bn lawsuit against Chevron for massive oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon was marred by fraud and corruption, and therefore not enforceable in the US. Later that month, Judge Lewis Kaplan also accepted Chevron’s counterclaims against Patton Boggs for its role in the litigation. Yesterday’s settlement releases the law firm and its partners of these claims. “We are pleased that Patton Boggs is ending its association with the fraudulent and extortionate Ecuador litigation scheme,” said Chevron’s vice president, Hewitt Pate, in a statement. On the same day as the ruling, the Union of Peoples Affected by Texaco-Chevron released a statement claiming Judge Kaplan had financial links with Chevron. The document, based on cross-referenced investment report, said that Kaplan had shares in at least three JP Morgan funds that hold positions in Chevron shares and bonds. By not revealing these interests, the group said Kaplan had violated laws of impartiality and denied them a fair and balanced trial.

 

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