20. Black Gold Conquistadors Invade Ecuador
National Catholic Reporter, 115 E. Armour Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64111, Date:
May 1, 1992, Title: "Oil Companies Invade Ecuador for `Black Gold",'
Author: Leslie Wirpsa; Urgent Action Bulletin Survival International, 310 Edgeware
Road, London W2 IDY, England, Date: July 1992, Title: "Dallas Oil Company
to Invade Waorani Land," Authors: Survival International Jonathon Mazower
and Charlotte Sankey
SSU Censored Researcher: Pete Anderson
SYNOPSIS: "Five hundred years ago, the Spanish came with
mirrors, Bibles and swords, dominated with bloody force and the fear
of God," writes Leslie Wirpsa, Latin American Affairs reporter
for the National Catholic Reporter. But today, Wirpsa continues, "in
their relentless search for black gold, the oil companies are bringing
[to Ecuador] sweets, tacky dresses, sports shorts and T-shirts, along
with their monstrous machines. And, like the Spanish, the oil companies
continue to disrupt the culture, communal economies and social fabric
of the indigenous communities. In addition, they are ravaging Ecuador's
Amazon ecosystem, one of the most biologically diverse in the world.
"In terms of exploitation, there are indexes and then there are
indexes," says Bishop Gonzalo Lopez Maranon, Carmelite bishop for
Ecuador's eastern Amazon forest. "It seems to me the exploitation
by the multinational companies is incomparably more oppressive, more
exploitative, more destructive than the system used 500 years ago.
Petroleum Co. drilled the first oil well in Amazon territory in 1969. Today, oil
drilling occurs in 10 percent of Ecuador's 32 million acres of the Upper Amazon
Basin. Texaco sold its drill sites to Petroecuador, an Ecuadorian company, in
1991. The destruction left behind by Texaco, and now continued by Petroecuador,
was so great that the Amsterdam-based International Water Tribunal morally condemned
the two companies for spoiling Amazon water systems.
In her book Amazon
Crude, environmental writer Judith Kimerling, working for the Natural Resources
Defense Council, documented the damage done to Ecuador's Amazon by the oil company.
She revealed that 16.8 million gallons of oil have been poured into the fragile
environment over the past 18 years as a result of pipeline cracks and spills.
And about 4.3 million gallons of "toxic production wastes" are flushed
into the region's Lagoons, rivers, streams and groundwater tables each day.
Luzuriaga, former sub-secretary for Petroecuador's Environmental Division, estimated
that 50 percent of the water systems in the eastern oil-producing area are contaminated.
Carlos Esquetini, former Ecuadoran deputy secretary of energy, said that "Texaco
has been in this country for 20 years. Texaco was our professor. They taught us
how to produce and pollute. They never taught us how to clean up the mess."
to criticism, Petroecuador recently promised to clean up the poisonous pools of
waste materials located by its oil wells. But "Primer Piano," a popular
Ecuadorian news documentary program, revealed the company merely covered the sites
with dirt; the toxic muck continues to seep into the soil, contaminating Amazon
groundwater aquifers. Shortly after denouncing the dirty practices of the oil
companies, "Primer Plano" was taken off the air.
And the invasion
of the black gold conquistadors continues. The July 1992 Urgent Action Bulletin,
issued by Survival International, the worldwide movement to support tribal people,
warned that the Maxus Energy Corporation, a Texas-based oil company, was starting
construction of a road and an oil pipeline into the land of the Waorani, the most
vulnerable of the Indian peoples in Ecuador.
The United States continues
to import half of the 300,000 barrels of crude pumped from the Ecuadorian Amazon
COMMENTS: Survival International authors Jonathon Mazower and
Charlotte Sankey report that the Ecuadorian invasion by oil companies
received no coverage in the mainstream media: "The media see the
very real, life-threatening problems faced by indigenous peoples daily
as completely marginal -- and, even if worthy of attention, not the
substance of stories to sell the papers. This in 1992, the year of the
Columbus anniversary, when indigenous peoples were at least a little
higher up the news agenda than its usual rock bottom!
public should be informed of the consequences of the overriding belief in growth
as the mainstay of progress.
When U.S. companies reach further and further
into ever more remote corners of the earth for their oil supply, with no regard
for the people, the Western public needs to be told the real story behind the
oil they use in their homes and cars. The general public can then see a clear
link between their daily lives and human rights abuses and feel empowered by using
their influence as consumers.
"The oil company, Maxus [cited in the
article] will clearly be happy for as long as it can continue its operations unhindered
by negative publicity."
The authors point out that this article, while
focusing on Ecuador, is part of a long-standing and ongoing campaign by Survival
International to publicize the plight of indigenous people, the most marginal
of all peoples: " [The article] is a tool in our letter-writing campaign,
where thousands of our members worldwide read the piece, and then follow the instructions
as to how to write to the Ecuadorian president (for example). This is a very effective
way of campaigning: a) as South American governments seem to be becoming more
concerned about their international image; and b) politicians often see one letter
from a member of the public to represent the views of several hundred other people
who do not write.
"The extreme vulnerability of the Waorani people
is made clear in the text. Any extra publicity Project Censored can give them
is very much welcomed."
PLEASE NOTE. For more information about Survival
International and its letter writing campaign, please write Urgent Action Bulletin,
Survival International, at the above address.