by RICHARD WARD
The issue of oil extraction in Ecuador is controversial. The Correa administration has used earnings from the oil industry to improve Ecuadorian society, with considerable advancements in education, health care, infrastructure and access to technology. The president is extremely popular, especially with the urban poor, whose lives have improved as a result of these general developments, and from the modest monthly cash benefits that many of them receive. Correa deserves credit for these policies, but the condition of indigenous people of the Oriente, Ecuador’s Amazon region, where the oil exploitation takes place, and their environment, continues to deteriorate.
It takes about five hours to get from my apartment in Quito’s old city to Edmundo Salazar’s and Irene Mamallakta’s house in a Kichwa community of Rukullakta, in Ecuador’s Napo province (in the Oriente), where I will stay for a few days with them, their children, and my friend and mentor of all things Oriente, Chris Jarrett. The bus leaves Quito and climbs to the dramatic cloud forests to the east with their expanse of emerald heights, granite cliff faces, brilliant cultivated squares of potatoes and corn, grazing cattle looking like tiny lead figures clinging to the steep slopes covered with abundant grass, cleared of forest, a cornucopia of grass, silver tumbling rivers below. Descending, approaching the Oriente, the air turns warmer, the vegetation changes, the land flattening and spreading to the horizon, a vista inspiring the mind’s eye towards the great basin that contains 20 percent of the world’s ocean-bound fresh water and much of its remaining mystery.
For more on this story, visit: The Race for Oil and Ecuador’s Indigenous People » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.