Tag Archive | "ecuador"

Ecuador: Ship Runs Aground in Galápagos Islands


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)

Ecuadorian authorities have declared a state of emergency in the Galápagos Islands after the freighter ‘Floreana’ ran aground just off San Cristóbal Island, in the aptly named ‘Wreck Bay’.

The incident, which took place on 28th January, is the third in under a year, after Galapaface I hit the rocks last May, and a ship en route to the islands carrying 1,200 tonnes of cargo sunk close to Santa Elena Peninsula in November.

The Floreana was transporting 1,925 tonnes of cargo, including food, supplies, construction materials, and some hazardous substances, such as 37,000 litres of fuel, 11 tonnes of pinion oil, 103 gas cylinders, 48 tonnes of asphalt emulsion, and other materials, according to a bulletin issued by the Provincial Government of Galápagos.

In a press release, the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park and the Environmental Ministry reported that they have placed containment barriers and absorbent material around the Floreana to prevent possible discharge of pollutants into the bay. However, Ecuadorian navy personnel have reported the presence of contaminating material, a mixture of diesel and hydraulic oil, due to the flooding of the engine room, and the fuel leakage is said to be increasing.

Until there is evidence that the contamination has been contained, the park has closed three surfing spots near the incident area, and extra barges have been sent from the Ecuadorian mainland to accelerate unloading operations. Once the unloading is completed and the vessel is stabilised, it will be scuttled in an area outside the marine reserve.

The incident has reminded locals of the 2001 incident in which Jessica, an oil tanker, ran aground in Wreck Bay, spilling over 650,000 litres of diesel and fuel oil. It was ranked as one of the worst environmental disasters in Galápagos history.

The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for the vast number of species and pristine environment, and are located some 900km off Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

 

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Ecuador: Investigation Begins into Murder of Indigenous Activist


José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

Prosecutors have begun an investigation into the supposed murder of indigenous activist José Tendetza, whose body was discovered in suspicious circumstances last week.

Tendetza was an outspoken environmental activist leading the opposition to the Mirador open-pit mining project on land belonging to the Shuar people in the province of Zamora Chinchipe.

He was due to speak this week at the UN Climate Change Summit, COP20, in Lima, but went missing on 28th November as he travelled to a meeting with fellow protesters.

His body was found days later on the banks of a river and buried in an unmarked grave after an initial autopsy did not determine the cause of death. However, his body was unearthed again after his son, Jorge, identified him in photographs taken at the morgue, which relatives say also showed that his arms and legs had been bound.

The officials results of a second autopsy have not yet been released, but Interior Minister José Serrano said yesterday that preliminary estimates suggest Tendetza had been strangled. Serrano said he had ordered a full investigation and was offering a reward of US$100,000 to anyone who could provide vital information about the murder.

However, indigenous groups have called for an international commission to investigate the death, saying they doubted the independence of the Ecuadorian prosecutors and police. “His body was beaten, his bones broken,” said Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash. “He had been tortured and thrown in the river. The very fact that they buried him before telling us or his family is suspicious.”

Shuar community leaders say Tendetza was killed as a result of his resistance to large-scale mining in the area, noting that he had previously faced harrassment, including having his crops burned. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador (Conaie) noted that Tendetza was the third Shuar activist to be killed in recent years, following the shooting of Bosco Wisum by police in 2009 and the killing of Fredy Taish by the military in 2013.

The Shuar community and environmental groups say that open-pit mining will destroy up to 450,000 acres of forest in Ecuador’s southern Amazon, an area of great biodiversity and home to indigenous communities. Its leaders criticise the government for protecting business interests of the rights of its citizens.

“Without consulting anybody the government gave our land to Ecuacorriente [the Chinese-owned firm leading the Mirador mining project],” Ankuash told AP. “They put up fences and destroyed everything that was inside them: houses and crops… this is what our dead partner was demanding, because he could not access lands that were his all of his life and that of his grandparents.”

The Ecuadorian government has also faced sharp criticism from environmental groups for allowing oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park. Last week, a group of 17 activists heading to the Lima Conference had their bus confiscated by police before they could cross the border into Peru.

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UN World Conference on Indigenous People Closes


Evo Morales (Photo by Sebastian Baryli)

Evo Morales (Photo by Sebastian Baryli)

The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples drew to a close in New York yesterday, with Latin American nations taking a leading role.

Bolivian president Evo Morales inaugurated the two-day summit on Monday, calling himself living proof that indigenous people “can govern and not just vote”.

The central issues addressed in the forum, considered a special meeting as part of the 69th UN General Assembly, were land and territory, food sovereignty, and environment.

The summit culminated in the unanimous agreement of governments to draw up national plans to protect the rights of indigenous groups in their countries, including a clause that governments must obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from indigenous peoples on matters that affected them, including legislative measures and development projects.

During the conference, strategies were also discussed to ensure the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Bolivian president said the conference must be the start of something bigger.

“This conference must be a starting point in determining the collective actions that must be taken in the defence of life in order to initiate a process of transformation and change through the sovereignty and science of our indigenous peoples,” he said.

In his opening remarks, President Morales warned that capitalism and unbridled development of land are the greatest threat to indigenous movements around the world.

“The fundamental principles of the indigenous movement are life, mother earth, and peace, and these principles of the worldwide indigenous movement are permanently threatened by a system and model, the capitalist system, a model which extinguishes human life and the mother earth,” he said.

The conference was launched after a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) praised his government and that of Ecuador for the progress made in guaranteeing basic rights to indigenous communities. The study recognised efforts made by La Paz and Quito to improve indigenous communities’ access to healthcare and education but highlighted that a lot remains to be done in Latin America to fully guarantee the rights of the 45-million strong indigenous population that inhabits the Southern Cone.

President Morales, noted a number of advances made in Bolivia under his leadership that he says have directly benefited indigenous peoples. Most notable, said Morales, has been Bolivia’s efforts in reducing extreme poverty. A recent UN Development Program report found that Bolivia experienced the greatest relative drop in extreme poverty in Latin America between 2000 and 2012.

In his speech, President Morales also mentioned that Bolivia is the first and only country to have fully incorporated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its constitution. Bolivia’s new constitution was approved by popular referendum in 2009.

Following the inauguration, President Morales met with UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon for talks, who praised the president as a “symbol of the developing world”.

Up to 2,200 indigenous representatives from roughly 100 countries around the world attended the conference.

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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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