Ecuador: violence in Orellana oil zone

According to an open letter from the Provincial Council of Ecuador’s Orellana province, starting in June 26 the Ecuadoran armed forces attacked striking residents of 26 communities of the Dayuma-Pindo Zone parish in Orellana. The communities were protesting the refusal of the Chinese oil corporation PetroOriental to comply with a labor agreement it signed on July 28, 2006, in which the company pledged to hire 80% of its skilled and non-skilled workforce from among local community residents. (Adital, July 2) Residents were also demanding that the company carry out promised local infrastructure projects. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, July 7 from EFE)

Residents blocked the access roads to their communities, without forcing a suspension in oil pumping. On June 28, soldiers and police agents entered Pindo Central and attacked residents and their homes indiscriminately with tear gas and rifle fire. Maribel Solorzano was injured when she was struck in the head by a tear gas bomb. Many other women fled to the hills with their children, and spent the night there. One resident, Wiliam Bravo, was detained by the armed forces and remained jailed as of July 2, even after a habeas petition for his release was presented and accepted by the courts. On June 28 and 30, police and soldiers again attacked Pindo Central while community members were resting in their homes. In the Tiguano and Santa Rosa communities, 19 people were injured. (Adital, July 2)

Residents lifted their protest on July 6 after reaching an agreement with a government commission that arrived in Dayuma the previous day. According to Dayuma-Pindo mayor’s office spokesperson Elio Ortega, the government agreed to demilitarize the zone and to join with the Catholic church in creating a verification committee to determine whether PetroOriental is violating the terms of its 2006 agreement. At least 31 people were injured in the conflict, including civilians, soldiers and police agents. The military has now withdrawn its forces from the area, except for a unit guarding the oil company’s installations. (El Universo, Guayaquil, July 6)

PetroOriental official Sebastian Valdivieso said on July 7 that the protests had caused the company losses of nearly $1 million. (ED-LP, July 7 from EFE)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 8

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