from Weekly News Update on the Americas
AMAZON: STRIKE IN OIL PROVINCE
Residents of the oil-rich Amazon province of Napo in eastern Ecuador began an open-ended strike on Feb. 20 to demand resources to carry out public works in the region. On the first day of the strike, hundreds of people seized a pumping station of the state oil company, PetroEcuador, shutting down the flow of oil for nearly 17 hours. On Feb. 21, protesters shut down the Sardinas pumping station of the privately owned Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP); police broke up the occupation there early on Feb. 23. The OCP is owned by the US oil company Occidental, the Canadian firm Encana and the Spanish-Argentine company Repsol-YPF.
The government refused to negotiate with protest leaders, and on Feb. 21, protesters clashed with police. The protesters exploded sticks of dynamite, seriously injuring several police agents; police used gunfire against the protesters. A 19-year-old protester, William Mamallacta Noa, was struck in the head by a bullet; he was transferred to Quito where he remains hospitalized in intensive care. Doctors believe he may have permanent brain damage. Activists say 34 people were wounded by bullets, detainees have been tortured and 12 protesters have disappeared.
The government declared a state of emergency in the zone on Feb. 22, suspending civil liberties. Massive raids were carried out in Tena, the provincial capital, and soldiers confiscated food and supplies from local residents. Security forces blocked anyone from entering the oil town of Baeza, including human rights volunteers trying to verify reports of abuses. A police general in Tena told the Ecuadoran Permanent Human Rights Assembly (APDH) that army Gen. Gonzalo Meza is directly responsible for the repression and excesses committed by security forces.
After at least six hours of negotiations in Quito, Napo provincial officials, representatives of the government of President Alfredo Palacio and Gen. Meza reached an agreement late on Feb. 23. The government agreed to free some 35 people arrested during the protests, lift the state of emergency and arrange for about $100 million worth of public works in the region, including a highway through the Amazon, a new airport and funding for education and for water, sewer and electric services.
Napo governor Gina San Miguel announced the end of the strike on Feb. 24: “I want to tell the entire country that this [strike] was a response to the lack of attention from each successive government,” said San Miguel. San Miguel and Quijos mayor Rene Balladares were among 30 people arrested on Feb. 21; both were freed hours later. Journalist Pedro Arevalo was also among those arrested. (Resumen Latinoamericano, Feb. 24; Miami Herald, Feb. 24; Diario La Hora. Quito, Feb. 24; APDH, Feb. 24; Financial Times, Feb. 23)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 26
QUITO: PROTESTERS BLAST TRADE PACT
On Feb. 8, at least 2,000 people marched through the historic center of Quito, Ecuador, to protest the Andean Free Trade Agreement (referred to as the Free Trade Treaty, TLC) being negotiated with the US, Peru and Colombia. The students, retirees, teachers and union members were also marching to demand that the US oil company Occidental (Oxy) be forced to leave Ecuador for having violated its contract terms. Students were also demanding special discounted bus fares, and the retirees were demanding an increase in their pensions. Unlike similar marches in January, there were no serious incidents with police. (EFE, Feb. 8)
Some 1,500 residents of Sucumbios province in northern Ecuador, led by provincial governor Luis Munoz and Lago Agrio council member Angel Villacis, left in buses on the night of Feb. 6 to attend the Feb. 8 protest in Quito. The Sucumbios residents are also demanding that the government of President Alfredo Palacio fulfill promises made in the resolution of a regional strike last August, as well as cancel Ecuador’s contract with the US oil company Occidental and reject the TLC.
Police initially tried to block the caravan of 50 buses in Santa Cecilia, just outside Lago Agrio, but the protesters managed to evade police and continue toward Quito. In Canton Baeza, an hour and a half from Quito, police stopped the buses and forced the protesters to get out. The police then attacked the protesters with tear gas. The demonstrators continued their march toward Quito on foot. (Campana Continental contra el ALCA, Feb. 7 from Servicio Informativo OPCION)
Some 100 striking Ecuadoran flower industry workers demonstrated on Feb. 7 at the Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito to protest the harsh conditions faced by flower workers. The workers at Rosas del Ecuador have been on strike for three years; they were supported at the demonstration by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and by the Austrian organization Swedwind – ConAccion. The protest was held at the hangars where boxes of flowers were being loaded onto planes headed for Valentine’s Day sales in the US and Europe. A similar protest was held in Vienna, Austria.
Christina Schroeder of Swedwind – ConAccion clarified that the purpose of the protests is to inform people about conditions and demand fair treatment for workers, not to boycott the industry. According to Jaime Breilth of the Health Research and Advisory Center (CEAS), 80% of Ecuador’s 400 flower producers “dramatically fail to comply with international codes of social, labor and ecological conduct.” (Minga Informativa/ALAI, Feb. 8)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 12
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #118
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, March 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution