Ecuador's second-largest oil pipeline burst on April 8, but exports will not be affected, the Energy Ministry emphasized. The 475-kilometer Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline has a capacity of up to 450,000 barrels per day, linking oil fields in the eastern Sucumbios province to the Pacific coast. The Energy Ministry said that around 5,500 barrels of crude were spilled when the OCP broke, and that the pipeline suspended operations following the incident. The rupture occurred in Esmeraldas province, near where the pipeline meets the Pacific. Several local campesino plots were fouled. The OCP is controlled by a consortium including Spain's Repsol-YPF, the French Perenco and Brazil's Petrobras. The country's largest pipeline, the SOTE, transports crude for paratstatal Petroamazonas, which aims to produce an average 325,000 bpd this year. (Reuters, El Comercio, Quito, April 8) Ecuador has just announced plans for a major new thrust of oil development in the Amazon, with Chinese companies in the lead.
Some 30 protesters crashed the opening of the sixth Expominas trade fair at the Quito Exhibition Center April 3, where Ecuador's government sought to win new investors for the mineral and oil sectors. The protesters, mostly women, interrupted the event's inaugural speech with an alternative rendition of the song "Latinoamérica" by the Puerto Rican hip-hop outfit Calle 13, with lyrics referencing places in the country threatened by mining: "You cannot buy Intag, you cannot buy Mirador, you can't buy Kimsacocha, you can't buy my Ecuador." The activists wore t-shirts with the slogan: "Responsible mining, tall tale" (literally, cuento chino, Chinese tale). (Tegantai, April 3)
Sebastián Muñoz, founder of the bicyclists' rights group Andando en Bici Carajo in Quito, Ecuador, was struck by a car and killed while on his bicycle March 22. It was a hit-and-run collision, with the motorist still at large. Muñoz had made bicyclists' safety his special concern, leading a campaign to leave white-painted "ghost bicycles" at places around the city where cyclists had been killed, and painting murals advocating for the cause. A memorial bicycle ride for the fallen activist is planned for April 6, with stops at the murals and "ghost bicycles," culminating in the installation of a ghost bike in his honor at the intersection where he was killed. (La Línea de Fuego, Quito, March 25; El Comercio, Quito, March 24; El Comercio, March 22)
Three campesino leaders from Tarqui village in Ecuador's southern highland province of Azuay began an eight-day jail term in the provincial capital Cuenca on March 21, convicted of having disrupted the local water supply during a May 2010 protest against the Quimsacocha mining project, run by Canadian multinational Iamgold. Residents say the Quimsacocha project (also rendered Kimsacocha) will degrade and deplete local water sources. Ironically, the jail term for the three leaders—Carlos Pérez Guartambel, Efraín Arpi and Federico Guzmán—began on the eve of World Water Day, March 22, when a march on Cuenca had already been planned to demand local water rights and oppose large-scale mining projects. The march, which brought out several hundred, began with a ceremony in support of the jailed leaders at Cuenca's judicial building. "This is called the criminalization of struggle," said Delfín Tenesaca, president of the highland indigenous alliance ECUARUNARI. (El Tiempo, Cuenca, Kaos en La Red, March 22; La Tarde, Cuenca, Ecuavisa, March 21)
Reprisals are feared in a sensitive part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest following an attack by "uncontacted" tribesmen in which two members of the Waorani indigenous people were killed March 5. According to a preliminary investigation by the Orellana province public prosecutor's office, the victims were speared to death while walking near their village of Yarentaro, located along the Maxus Oil Road—within both Yasuní National Park, and the Bloc 16 oil exploration division, being developed by Repsol. The victims were identified as a Waorani elder and his wife. A statement by the Organization of the Waorani Nationality of Orellana (ONWO) said the attackers were from an isolated band of the Tageiri-Taromenane, which has long had territorial disputes with the closely related Waorani. The Taromenane are said to be a branch of the Waorani who spurned contact with evangelical missionaries in the 1950s by retreating deeper into the forest, and now roam the interior Yasuní as nomads.
Indigenous peoples in Peru's Amazonas region have held demonstrations over the past weeks at the site of the June 2009 massacre at Curva del Diablo, in the municipality of Bagua. The action was called to protest that 54 indigenous leaders are now facing life terms if convicted in the Bagua violence, while only one member of the National Police is behind bars in the affair, with another two already released. On Feb. 26, when the road at "Devil's Curve" was blocked by hundreds of members of the Awajún and Wampis peoples, one large group of participants refused to join in the singing of Peru's national anthem that opened the gathering. Carlos Altamirano Rafael, leader of the Interests Front of Condorcanqui, said he believed that no justice is possible within Peru, and that the two peoples should declare independence or unite with Ecuador.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on Feb. 18 claimed an overwhelming re-election victory. Reuters perhaps inadvertently noted the contradiction in Correa's program, stating that his sweep at the polls "allows him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation." Correa in his statements implied he is prepared to pick up the torch of Venezuela's ailing Hugo Chávez, Latin America's leading anti-imperialist head of state, who sent a statement of congratulations. "We will be present wherever we can be useful, wherever we can best serve our fellow citizens and our Latin American brothers," Correa told supporters who massed in front of the presidential palace in Quito, waving the green banners of his ruling Alianza Pais.
Seven men who were detained in March in Quito's southern district of Luluncoto on "terrorism" and "subversion" charges were freed Dec. 20, after a panel of three judges of the metropolitan province Pichincha found that they had been detained in violation of constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest. Three women who were arrested along with them remain detained and on hunger strike at Quito's El Inca women's prison. The seven men also went on hunger strike at Quito's Provisional Detention Center three days before their release. The so-called Luluncoto 10 were arrested in an operation code-named Red Sun, and accused of being part of an urban guerilla cell called the Popular Combat Group (GCP), which was supposedly planning attacks in the capital. (El Universo, Guayaquil, Dec. 20; El Comercio, Quito Dec. 17; El Comercio, March 6)