The Shuar and Achuar indigenous peoples are under siege. For thousands of years they have lived in the ancient tropical rainforest where the Amazon lowlands meet the Andes. They call their territory Transkutuku, but now it has another name: Block 24. Since 1999, the Texas-based oil company Burlington Resources has held a concession for oil exploration in Block 24; one of several concessions the Ecuadorian government gave to multinational oil companies without consulting with the indigenous residents.
For five years, the Shuar and Achuar have held their ground against Burlington, effectively suspending the contract between the company and the Ecuadorian government due to “force majeure.” This usually means a natural disaster, but in Transkutuku it means that the Shuar and Achuar are just saying “no.” They have made their position clear through their representative federations, held marches and protests, detained company officials for trespassing on their land, and filed suit against Burlington through Ecuadorian courts (every ruling has been in their favor). This year, Pablo Tsere, president of the Shuar, took his people’s case to Burlington’s annual meeting in Houston (see his statement below).
The Achuar, who only came into contact with the outside world in the late 1960s, live by hunting, gathering and subsistence agriculture, conserving the forest that blankets 97 percent of their traditional territory. With their Shuar neighbors, they protect one of Ecuador’s last remaining large tracts of ancient tropical rainforest, extraordinarily rich in species diversity. Six percent of the world’s bird species are found here, including the Harpy Eagle and 27 other raptors, 20 species of parrots and many endemic bird species, for a total near 600. Further research may prove this forest to be the world’s top site for avian diversity, and possibly tree diversity as well.
This is a critical fight for rainforest protection and indigenous peoples’ rights, and the Shuar and Achuar should win it. Achuar opposition across the border in Peru already persuaded Burlington Resources to withdraw from a different oil project there. The company touts a policy on Indigenous Communities’ Rights (see www.br-inc.com), although its practices in Ecuador fall far short of this policy (see Amazon Watch’s paper, “Debunking Burlington”). The Ecuadorian Constitution of 1998 recognizes indigenous peoples’ right to manage and conserve their natural resources and participate in decisions regarding projects that may affect them. Ecuador also ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, the strongest international instrument for protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. In spite of this, Ecuadorian officials repeatedly threaten to use military force if necessary to open indigenous territories for oil exploration.
Click HERE to see Earth Rights International's photo documentation of the Achuar.
This is a Archived campaign.