Why is drilling for oil in the Yasuni-ITT block of Ecuador’s Amazon such a betrayal to the Ecuadorian people, the global anti-capitalist left, and to basic human rights? Today Newsweek publishes a piece I’ve been working on for a few months that attempts to answer this question: ”’After all the people we killed, we felt dizzy’: A massacre, a twice-kidnapped girl and Big Oil star in a messy drama rattling Ecuador"
Here is some additional reading and viewing for people interested in the story beyond what I was able to fit into the article.
WIKILEAKS CABLE: ITT FUND HYPOCRISY IN ECUADOR GOVERNMENT
"The (Government of Ecuador) officially presented "Keeping the Oil in the Ground" at a June 5 World Environment Day celebration at the Presidency. The GOE proposed to refrain from developing the ITT field if the international community would compensate it for half of the estimated profits resulting from development, or $1.75 billion. The showy event at the Presidency included children and indigenous groups (the ITT is home to uncontacted peoples such as the Hoarani), and a colorful photo exhibit of Ecuador’s Amazon forests. Cabinet members and even the President of Petroecuador all signed a large white poster in support of the initiative.
"… Meanwhile, Petroecuador’s President, Carlos Pareja has been actively pushing for development of the ITT fields (reftel). In an ironic twist, the same day the GOE unveiled its Keep the Oil in the Ground proposal, Petroecuador applied for visas for a delegation to travel to Washington to meet with possible U.S.-based developers of the ITT field."
- Cable 07QUITO1497, dated June 29, 2009, signed by U.S. Ambassador Linda Jewell, sent from the Quito Embassy, classified Confidential
SECRETOS DEL YASUNI YOUTUBE CHANNEL
I spoke to many people that didn’t make it into the final version of the Newsweek article, including the Ecuadorian filmmaker responsible for this channel, and several of his sources. His work investigating the March massacre has been invaluable in my own process for putting together a narrative about what happened and why it is as important as I believe it to be, and his interviews with people like Miguel Angel Cabodevilla and Veronica Potes are extensive and compete. His interview with Cabodevilla has English subtitles (turn on YouTube’s Closed Captioning option).
WHY ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT HAS FAILED THE COUNTRY OVER YASUNI-ITT
The trajectory of Alberto Acosta is a fascinating one for anyone interested in Ecuador’s current political “revolution” process. In this article in the Guardian, Acosta makes the case I briefly summarized about the vital importance of the Yasuni-ITT initiative to Correa’s promise to change the source of Ecuador’s economic construction.
(SPANISH) FULL REPORT BY ANTHROPOLOGISTS ABOUT UNCONTACTED GROUPS IN YASUNI
Due to space constraints, I wasn’t able to get into this interesting report by a group of more than 20 Ecuadorian anthropologists about uncontacted people in the Yasuni jungle. The report says that the National Assembly’s conclusion that there are no isolated people groups in the ITT and 31 blocks is flawed. The anthropologists conclude by “exhorting” the National Assembly not to approve oil drilling in the Yasuni, because further study is needed to determine the movements and locations used by the Taromeneni and other uncontacted people (the report identifies for the possible presence in Yasuni of an uncontacted group called”iwene”), and time is needed to determine how best to protect them.
(SPANISH) LEAKED POLICE PRESENTATION SUGGESTS CRIMINALIZATION OF ANTI-DRILLING PROTEST
In a very strange twist, Yasunidos, the group trying to collect 600,000 signatures to force a referendum on whether to drill, appears to be the subject of police surveillance and tracking.
Yasunidos themselves presented slides from a police presentation, classified “Secret”, at a press conference, and Anonymous Ecuador posted the full presentation to their blog. I wasn’t able to get the police to confirm or deny whether the slides were original in time for the publication deadline, but if real, they are chilling evidence that Correa is deploying state security to photograph, follow and generally keep track of people non-violently collecting petition signatures.
(SPANISH) LEFT WING GROUPS RELEASE STATEMENT AGAINST GOVERNMENT DECISION TO DRILL
Felipe Ogaz is a member of Diabluma who I was able to quote in the article about his personal experience of growing distant from a revolutionary government that he once supported. His group, however, is just one part of a broader collective, Yasuni.Si, a collective of collectives of farm labourers, afro-ecuadorians and other rural people are all struggling with that process of separation and alienation with the government in different ways. This is their launch manifesto.
(SPANISH) AFTER BOOK BAN, AUTHOR GETS VISITED BY COMPLAINANT TO CLARIFY: BAN WASN’T OUR IDEA
In this very interesting blog entry on the Aguarico vicarage webpage, author and former Capuchin missionary Miguel Angel Cabodevilla gives new information about a visit he received that illustrated the back-story of the banning of his book.
The night of the ban, government officials arrived at the launch event with a family court judge’s order (best local newspaper about that is here), banning the sale of Cabodevilla’s new book about the March massacre of Taromenane. The ban had been issued by a complaint filed by the Ombudsperson’s office, a supposedly neutral government entity that defends people’s rights within the system, to defend the rights of Taromenane girls whose blurred photos were published in the book. However, when the ban went south and was denounced not only on social media but by top Correa ministers, the judge rescinded it.
The next morning, Ombudsman people visited Cabodevilla to inform him they were dropping the complaint they´d made to the family court, but they also told him who their complaint had actually been triggered by: the Attorney General’s office, the entity in charge of the criminal investigation into the massacre.
There are many, many more links I could share here. So much of what is going on in Ecuador right now ties back to Yasuni, to the united, organized and well-argued opposition it has inspired, and, ultimately, to Correa’s fear of that opposition. The closure of the Pachamama NGO, the raid and criminal prosecution of a journalist who was investigating oil deals in the Amazon, and a thousand other small cuts against people in some way related to environmental causes are part of the broader picture I think will become clear with time.
Edit: Ecuador’s free software association has published an open letter to the President and the national assembly opposing this new law. You can read the letter (in Spanish) here, and sign it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Ecuador’s new Penal Code is being debated this week in the National Assembly. The bill is enormous, but because the debate period it is so short (a few days), and voting is this week, I’d like to highlight a very specific set of articles which I find hugely problematic.
At a time when the world is discussing how best to protect our personal privacy from massive online spying care of the United States and the like, Ecuador is asking its telecom internet providers and telecom resellers (such as the Internet cafés where millions without home internet access go online) to collect massive amounts of user data and store it indefinitely.
Here is my translation of the proposed new laws. Art 485.2 refers to telecom-service resellers like Internet cafés, but also anyone who provides an internet or voice connection “for free”, meant to refer to those who offer public wifi zones (restaurants, mall food courts, bus stops like the new wifi zones at Metrovía stations in Guayaquil, etc). But technically, any individual who lends their internet connection to another party must register user data on that third party. The new laws, as written:
Art. 485.- Conservation of data and registries. The conservation of data will be guided by the following rules:
1.Telecommunications service providers and distributors should keep data on their clients or users, as established by a contract, and conserve the integrity of all data regarding phone numbers, static and dynamic IP addresses, as well as the traffic over a connection, access to transactions and information about the wireless communication connections that are made and the connection path for a minimum of six months, to aid with relevant investigations. The same precepts will be followed for the interception of communications.
2. Rate-payers of telecommunications services who share or distribute their data connection or voice line to third parties, either as a commercial service or freely, must store data related to the third party in a physical register and conserve data about the user, date and start and end times of connection, for at least six months, by installing security video cameras, to facilitate any corresponding investigation.
4. Judges, upon request of a district attorney, can compel reports on the data that is registered, archives, including electronic. The breach of this requirement, the forgery of the report delivered to law enforcement, or the concealment of the data will result in penal responsibility if the infraction is considered a crime.
When I arrived in this new city after an eight hour bus ride and showed up on the Spaniard’s doorstep, he had been asleep.
“Wow, I can’t believe you came. After only two calls.” Candid. I was a little surprised to find myself there in his living room (now my living room) at 5 a.m., too, to be honest.
I had left my job at The Telegrafo newspaper in Guayaquil, packed up my apartment, and moved to Quito, in the space of three days. All because of a couple of VOIP conversations with a mysterious group calling themselves the FLOK Society.
The FLOK folks, right now, consist of a couple of Spanish hacktivists, an Ecuadorian medical doctor-turned-coordinator, a Spanish philosopher who is working remotely, and a newly-arrived Belgian theorist who researches peer-to-peer networks and their implications for a new economy. I’m joining the team to provide communications support, in English and Spanish.
Their grand idea which grabbed my attention was this: the belief that a small group of people, working openly and collaboratively, with financial and organizational support from some of Ecuador’s key government ministries, can spark a global process big and bold enough to shift the economy of a whole country off of fossil fuels and towards an open knowledge economy.
During the VOIP call that snagged me, project chief Daniel Vázquez had said that everyone involved was being asked to put ten times as much effort into this than anything they’d done before. Because the goal we have set for ourselves is something that has never happened.
FLOK Society is, at its core, a research project occurring within a university: Ecuador’s post-graduate-focused state school the IAEN. But the parameters of the project push us to seek as many partnerships with any other schools, entities, social organizations, and communities with a stake in the project. Which is to say, there is an open invitation, and there soon will be proactive attempts to court, input and collaboration from all Ecuadorians and any international group that shares the values of FLOK and is interested in the theory that by creating and empowering peer networks a country can create a new economic matrix.
There are so many hackers involved, even at this early stage, because FLOK (which stands for “Free/Libre Open Knowledge”) proposes a fundamental disruption of society. FLOK’s reason-to-be is to create a legal, economic and social framework for an entire country (Ecuador) that is consistent with principles that are the basic foundations of the Internet: peer-to-peer collaboration and shared knowledge.
I’ve only been here a couple days, so I’m still learning the dreams the FLOK folks are dreaming for Ecuador, but so far it definitely feels like the right place to be and the best thing to be doing.
FLOK’s base document roughly translated into English
FLOK’s beta-phase website
"If living unfreely but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it’s the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows."
"But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied."”