Tag Archive | "ecuador"

Ecuador Demands Freedom for Assange After UN Ruling

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Ecuador has called for Julian Assange to be allowed to go free after a UN panel said his time in the country’s London embassy amounted to an “arbitrary detention.”

In a live press conference this morning from Quito, Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Pitaño, responded to a decision adopted by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) that considered that Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half year asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy to the UK in violation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The group also considered that the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks should be afforded the right to compensation.

Pitaño heralded the decision as “gratifying,” stressing that the “arbitrary detention” since 2012 has violated some of the “most important of human rights on the planet.”

Likening the situation to political persecution, the minister chided the “reproachable conduct” of both the UK and Sweden, saying “[i]t is time for both governments to correct their mistake and allow for the release of Julian Assange.”

The official document released by the Working Group this morning requested that both Sweden and the UK “assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention.”

While Ecuador hailed the decision, reached by three of the five independent members of the WGAD panel, the UK Foreign Office vowed to formally contest the opinion, with Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond calling it “ridiculous.”

The government also maintained that it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange, as a European Arrest Warrant is still in place, and the panel’s consideration is not legally binding in the UK.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in August 2012 after the WikiLeaks founder was accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden. Assange was unable to obtain guarantees from either the UK or Sweden that he would not be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for revealing sensitive information via Wikileaks. He has since been unable to leave the embassy in London without fear of immediate arrest.

Julian Assange speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (Photo via Wikipedia)

Julian Assange speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (Photo via Wikipedia)

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Ecuador Ordered to Pay Oil Company Oxy US$1.1bn

oxyA tribunal at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has ordered Ecuador’s government to pay Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) US$1.1bn for the seizure of assets, after rejecting an appeal against its 2012 ruling in favour of the multinational oil corporation.

The ICSID did, however, reduce the amount Ecuador must pay, lowering the original figure of US$1.8bn by 40%.

The case has been ongoing since 2006 when Ecuador’s government terminated Oxy’s contracts for operation in an Amazon oilfield known as Block 15, citing the corporation’s sale of 40% of its business in the area to another oil company without government consent in 2000. Ecuador then transferred operations to a state-run oil company, a move the ICSID labelled “tantamount to expropriation” in 2012.

Two days after the termination of contracts, on 17th May 2006, Oxy presented a lawsuit for $3.3 billion at the ICSID, accusing Ecuador of violating the Bilateral Treaty for the Protection of Investments, signed between the South American country and the US. Ecuador argued that this treaty did not apply because the Oxy’s decision to “farm out” its business contravened the country’s Hydrocarbons Law.

Though the ICSID agreed that Oxy had violated the law, it ruled in 2012 that the government’s response was “disproportionate” and ordered Ecuador to pay the company $1.8bn.

Ecuador’s Public Prosecutor requested that the 2012 decision be completely annulled, presenting a petition to the ICSID days after the ruling. It was this petition that the ICSID rejected yesterday.

President Rafael Correa took to Twitter to criticise the verdict, saying: “They’re treating the termination [of contracts] due to legal breaches as confiscation. Another attack on our sovereignty!”

He alluded to the role of Ecuador’s previous conservative governments in signing the country up to free trade agreements which allow companies like Oxy to bring forward this kind of lawsuit, calling it “Another result of the deals signed in the long and sad night of neoliberalism”.

In a statement released yesterday, the ICSID explained its decision to reduce the amount awarded to Oxy. “The Committee has found that the Tribunal manifestly exceeded its powers by wrongly assuming jurisdiction with regard to the investment now beneficially owned by the Chinese investor Andes,” – referring to a portion of business which Oxy sold in 2000 – “with the result that the compensation owed to claimants should be reduced from 100% to 60% of the value of Block 15.”

The statement adds that the tribunal rejected all other grounds for annulment put forward by Ecuador and mandates that “each Party shall bear one half of the ICSID costs, and its own litigation costs and expenses incurred with respect to this annulment proceeding.”

According to President Rafael Correa, the reduced fine is equivalent to 3.3% of his country’s budget for 2016.

Correa said that he will continue to negotiate with Oxy. “We’ve already presented a proposal to Oxy. And we’ll continue negotiating after this final ruling.”

At the time of termination of contracts, Oxy was Ecuador’s largest oil investor, extracting around 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

[This article has been amended after erroneously stating that the fine handed to Ecuador was US$1.1m]

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Latin American Leaders Denounce Effects of Capitalism on Environment

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the second World People’s Summit on Climate Change, with Latin American leaders denouncing the effects of global capitalism on the environment and stressing the need for wealthier countries to do more to fight climate change.

The conference, which began on Saturday in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya, gathered leaders from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, and Ecuador as well as 4,800 delegates from 54 countries and thousands of environmental and political activists. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon also attended.

Presidents Correa, Morales, and Maduro at the closing ceremony of the summit (photo: Freddy Zarco, courtesy of Bolivian government)

Presidents Correa, Morales, and Maduro at the closing ceremony of the summit (photo: Freddy Zarco, courtesy of Bolivian government)

The need for an independent environmental tribunal with powers to penalise countries and multinational companies who harm the environment emerged as one of the key proposals from the summit, alongside a push for recognition of the “ecological debt” owed by wealthy countries who have disproportionately benefited from the destruction of the environment.

The summit comes less than two months before the United Nations’ 21st Conference on Climate Change which will take place in Paris in December.

Hosting Bolivian president, Evo Morales, highlighted the need for unity amongst the attending countries as they bring their proposals forward to the Paris Summit. “I do not want your presence here to have been in vain,” he said. “I want your initiatives to affect [what happens] at the Paris Conference”.

Critics have suggested that it is unlikely that the possibility of an independent tribunal will gain much traction at the Paris talks, with most of the countries due to attend having expressed rejection of the idea.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, warned that “in Paris we will not be accepting a new agreement on climate change that minimises the responsibilities of rich countries”, denouncing a “lack of political will” to combat the issue from the governments of wealthy countries.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that it was essential to set up an independent environmental tribunal in order to “quantify and to help ensure payment of the ecological debt held by rich countries – and to stop this debt from growing.”

He added that it was essential for the US to sign up to the Kyoto agreement in order to achieve this, echoing the demands of the first World People’s Summit on Climate Change in 2010.

Correa underlined the need for a new economic and cultural system in order to fight climate change, insisting that “market capitalism cannot fix our environmental problems”.

A declaration released yesterday by conference organisers also emphasises the need for a departure from capitalism; “In order to survive, humanity must free itself from capitalism.It is driving us towards a horizon of destruction, which promises a death sentence for nature and for life itself.”

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro used his speech to call for solidarity between Latin American nations to protect the environment. He announced his country’s ‘2015-2030 Plan’, in partnership with Cuba, to fulfil the 17 Sustainable development goals which were established at last month’s UN General Assembly. He reiterated Venezuela’s support for Cuba in their US relations, calling on UN members to vote in favour of a resolution to end the US embargo against Cuba, due to be voted on 27th October.

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Latin American Leaders Call for Reform of UN Security Council

Leaders of several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Cuba, called for reform of the United Nations Security Council yesterday, as well as a change in attitudes towards migration, as they addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.

Cuban President Raul Castro also highlighted his country’s relations with the US.

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

While diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally restored in July this year, Castro said they could not be entirely normalised until the lifting of the “economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the US” and the closure of Guantánamo Bay, calls that were reiterated by other Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

The UN General Assembly has voted in support of a resolution calling the US to end the embargo each year since 1982 and plans to draft a new resolution on the matter are on the agenda for a meeting next month.

In his first address to the UN since succeeding his brother Fidel in 2006, Castro also backed requests from other Latin American leaders for reform of the UN Security Council.

The security council is the UN’s most powerful body because it has a role in shaping international law and takes the lead on identifying and responding to international crises and acts of aggression. It has 15 members, with the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia all occupying permanent seats, while the remaining ten seats are filled by non-permanent members which serve two-year terms, without the veto power held by permanent members.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, said that Chile’s 2014 – 2015 term on the council has “[reaffirmed] our belief in the need to reform the Council by increasing the number of its permanent members and limiting the scope of veto powers, at least in cases of crimes against humanity.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

The President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, echoed her calls for changes to the council’s structure and called for a more equitable representation of countries within it, saying, “If we want democracy to rule within our own republics, it is fair that we would also want it for the United Nations.”

Bachelet began her speech by referencing the migration crisis which is currently affecting Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. She insisted on the international community’s duty of “solidarity” in the treatment of “civilians who are fleeing desperately to save their lives and to create a better destiny for themselves,” adding that her government “has decided to take in refugees from the civil war in Syria” and will participate in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa from 2016.

Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, whose country recently declared migration to be a human right, was among the most vocal in criticising the migration policies of developed countries.

“For Ecuador’s government, there’s no such thing as an illegal human being,” he said, “and we think the UN should make a point of this idea. The migration policies of wealthy countries are truly shameful.”

Correa lamented that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for post-2015 do not include any mention of “the free movement of people”, highlighting the injustice of a system which encourages “the free movement of goods and money for maximum profit” while the movement of people seeking to earn a living is penalised.

He linked the current migration crisis to the failure to end global poverty, which “for the first time in history is not the result of a lack of resources but of perverse and restrictive systems”.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose country is the primary source of migrants to the US, meanwhile highlighted the need to stop “stigmatising immigrants and blaming them for the problems of the countries they arrive in”, which he said aggravates the experience of “danger, rejection, discrimination, and abuse” suffered by migrants.

“All over the world, millions of migrants are in need of a collective and effective response [to migration issues],” he concluded, “a global response which should come from the UN.”

All the Latin American leaders who spoke yesterday also raised environmental concerns, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year, with Bolivian president Evo Morales insisting that “the only good way to live” is “in harmony with Mother Earth”.

Chile’s Bachelet affirmed that “many of the challenges facing the world today cannot be solved in an isolated manner by each country”. The creation of sustainable societies, she said, “will only be possible if we can agree on a set of changes to make not only on a national level, but on a global one too.”

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Pope Francis Concludes South American Tour

Pope Francis receives a crucifix from Bolivian President Evo Morales (photo: Bolivian government)

Pope Francis receives a crucifix from Bolivian President Evo Morales (photo: Bolivian government)

Pope Francis concluded his South American tour last night after visiting Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay. He had left the Vatican on 5th July and arrived back today.

Through a number of speeches strong on political and social content, the pontiff used his visit to promote social justice and called for the protection of the poor.


Pope Francis started his South American tour in Ecuador, where he mentioned the “cry” of Latin American independence that burst over 200 years ago across the continent. “That was a cry born out of the awareness of the lack of freedom, of being squeezed, looted, subject to the circumstances of the powerful.” He added that “this cry of freedom that burst more than 200 years ago didn’t lack conviction and strength, but history shows that it was only strong when it set aside the personalities, the desire for unique leadership.”

He then encouraged the rejection of “personalities, desire for leadership, temptation of dictatorships, and sectarianism” and called for unity and an effort to “strive for inclusion at all levels, avoiding selfishness, promoting communication and dialogue, and encouraging collaboration.”


In Bolivia, Pope Francis was received by President Evo Morales, who was criticised by his gift to the Pontiff – a crucifix carved on a sickle and a hammer, a symbol that is recognised around the globe as the ‘community cross’. However, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi explained that “the pope has had no particular reaction to this and has not told me to express any particular negative reaction.”

The crucifix represents a replica of a carving done by Jesuit priest Luis Espinal Camps in the 1970s to express the union of the Christian world with Marxist ideas. The filmmaker and journalist, who headed a leftist weekly publication called ‘Aquí’, was killed after being tortured by paramilitary agents.

During his time in the Andean nation, Pope Francis harshly criticised the “dictatorship of money”, which he defined as “the devil’s dung” and the economic system “which degrades and kills.” He called for the union of Latin America in the rejection of the “new colonialism,” and the fight to overcome the “serious situations of injustice suffered by those excluded worldwide.”

The pontiff talked about the faults on the economic system that seeks to transform everything into an object for exchange and consumption, “a logic that aims to make room for very few.” He also praised social movements —referring to them as “social poets”— and called them to push for a change. “You, the most humble ones, the exploited, the poor and excluded, can do it and you do much. I dare say that the future of humanity is largely in your hands,” he said.


Pope Francis ended his tour with a visit to Paraguay before heading back to Rome.

Criticising untamed capitalism once more, he rejected the economic model that “needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profitability.”

He also criticised what he called “ideologies”, saying that “ideologies end badly, they don’t take the people into consideration. Look at what happened with the ideologies of the past century, they always ended in dictatorships.”

The pontiff reminded the public that “in the economy, business, and in politics, what comes first is the people and the habitat where they live.”

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Ecuador: Protests against Tax Bills Continue

President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Two bills proposing changes to inheritance and income taxes have sparked massive protests across Ecuador in the last three weeks, with the biggest marches taking place in the capital Quito and the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca.

The protests against President Rafael Correa and the ruling Alianza País (AP) party have, in many cases, been organised by various opposition parties and politicians, most notably the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot. “This is no longer the country of Correa, it is returning to be a country of all of us, free, united, and progressive,” Nebot declared.

In response, President Correa has accused the opposition of attempts to destabilise the country. He argued that the aim of the legal reforms is to achieve the well-being and social justice for the majority of the population through the redistribution of wealth. The ruling party has also organised counter protests, and the president has called for a national dialogue with the opposition. In the meantime, the president has “temporarily” withdrawn the legal reform.

The government’s call for a dialogue has not been met with enthusiasm from the opposition who argue that the government is not truly willing to negotiate. Instead, the opposition, headed by Nebot, has called for the permanent suspension of the proposed changes to inheritance and extraordinary gains taxes.

The proposed inheritance law would imply a tax of up to 47.5% over inherited property in the case of children. However, the government has assured that most Ecuadorians would be unaffected by the law. As President Correa tweeted: “Ninety-eight percent of Ecuadorians will never pay a cent of tax.” In a campaign dubbed NoDejarseEngañar (don’t let yourself be fooled) the government has invited the citizens to find out for themselves by using a generator that allows citizens to see their prospective tax rate.

The law of extraordinary gains, conversely, contemplated the payment of income tax for appreciation of value linked to speculation or public investment projects. The government argues that the current legal framework allows for the real estate industry to generate undue gains due to speculation. Again, the government assures that the proposed legal changes will not affect ordinary citizens.

“It affects yes, strongly, that 0.1% where you find the bankers who earn US$15 million per year,” Correa stated.

Despite Correa’s statement today that the worst of the protests has passed, the country is increasingly polarised. Protests are thus likely to continue in the run-up to elections in 2017.


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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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