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For Immediate Release

Contact

Ada Recinos at ada@amazonwatch.org or +1.510.473.7542
Alejandra Yépez Jácome at ayepez@amazonwatch.org or +593.992.713.867 

Press Release

Highest Ecuadorian Court Finds Decree 751 Unconstitutional, Would Have Allowed Oil Drilling in Area Protected for Isolated Peoples

Quito, Ecuador -

In a reprieve for Indigenous peoples living in isolation inside of Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park, the country’s top court declared Decree 751 unconstitutional, permanently prohibiting drilling in the buffer zone. In a 6-to-1 vote, the court rejected Decree 751 issued by former President Lenin Moreno in 2019. The decree permitted drilling in the buffer zone that surrounds a “no-go zone” protected area (Zona Intangible Tagaeri-Taromenane - ZITT) inside Yasuní National Park established for the nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane, two Indigenous peoples living in isolation.

Today’s decision is a setback for the oil industry, which has already built a road to the edge of the buffer zone. The ruling underscores that consent from Ecuador’s last Indigenous peoples under isolation can not be obtained without violating their right to live in voluntary isolation, and therefore drilling can not occur here.

Amazon Watch’s Climate and Energy Director, Kevin Koenig, made the following statement about the Court’s decision:

“Today’s decision from Ecuador’s Constitutional Court is a major victory for Indigenous peoples and an important step in protecting some of the most environmentally fragile and culturally sensitive places in the Amazon. It is also a reminder for oil companies and investors that expanding oil extraction in Ecuador’s Amazon is a risk and full of potential legal liabilities.

"Any drilling in Yasuní National Park is an existential threat to the peoples living in isolation, who have deforestation and destruction at their doorstep. But today’s decision may very well protect the Tagaeri and Taromenane from ethnocide.

"Today’s ruling however does not curtail drilling in other areas of Yasuní National Park – a UNESCO world biosphere reserve and widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Eight oil concessions overlap the park, and plans are underway to drill 600+ wells in the Ishpingo, Tambococha Tiputini fields, known as Block 43.”

Background

The decision comes amid a major oil spill that has turned the rainforest and rivers black with crude. President Guillermo Lasso has pledged to double oil production–much of which would come from wells inside Yasuni. Before today’s decision, wells were planned inside of the buffer zone that surrounds the protected area, and a new road connecting wells is 300 meters away.

The decree stemmed from a 2018 referendum in which voters signaled support for the expansion of the protected area. But in a betrayal to voters, Moreno redrew the boundaries, which increased its size but green lighted drilling. Much of today’s decision was based on procedural issues rather than the threat drilling poses to the Tagaeri-Taromenane. But Ecuador’s constitution has specific protections for both peoples, which factored into today’s decision. Article 57 states:

“The territories of the peoples living in voluntary isolation are an irreducible and intangible ancestral possession and all forms of extractive activities shall be forbidden there. The State shall adopt measures to guarantee their lives, enforce respect for self-determination and the will to remain in isolation, and to ensure observance of their rights. The violation of these rights shall constitute a crime of ethnocide, which shall be classified as such by law.” 

Recent research by Stand.earth and Amazon Watch revealed that California is the number one destination for crude sourced from Ecuador.

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Amazon Watch is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems.

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