Tribes and Tribulations
Indigenous Tribe in Ecuador Resists Big Oil
Ecuador is one of South America’s poorest countries, and like many poor countries, it is in considerable debt to developed nations. Fifty percent of its national budget comes from oil, and the International Monetary Fund is using its debt to pressure it to extract still more. Yet despite decades of oil development, the country’s debt continues to grow and poverty continues to spread. So, finally, an indigenous group whose land is threatened with oil exploration is saying “no thanks.” “Petroleum development has been a disaster in Ecuador, generating environmental, social, and cultural crises, and ultimately causing the extinction of indigenous peoples,” says Mario Santi, a member of the Sarayacu tribe and coordinator of Kampari (Voice of Resistance). “We want to maintain our way of living, free of contamination, in harmony with nature.” Despite offers of payouts from oil companies and the threat of military action from the Ecuadorian government, the Sarayacu have successfully kept oil drills off their land — for now.