Ecuadorian government, indigenous groups reach compromise

Ecuador: Government, indigenous compromise
Meeting between government officials and indigenous representatives. Photo: Twitter/@MinGobiernoEc

Indigenous groups in Ecuador stepped up criticism of the government of President Guillermo Lasso this week, claiming that mining and oil extraction in the country could cause irreversible damage to Ecuador’s natural landscape and traditional communities.

On Wednesday, Mining and Energy Minister Xavier Vera said during a press conference that both sides arranged a preliminary agreement for a 12-month suspension of extraction from 15 oil fields across the country. The reduction of such activities is one of many conditions established by indigenous organizations to cease a wave of nationwide protests that began in August. 

The Lasso administration also said this week that it will no longer greenlight the approval of new extraction projects in lands inhabited by indigenous communities, as well as on demarcated lands and archaeological sites. Mr. Xavier Vera later said that future mining concessions will depend on a prior consultation law, expected to be approved in the coming months. 

However, despite some settlements, both sides of the negotiating table are unlikely to reach a full agreement. On one side, the government says it is at a crossroads, claiming protest-related concessions will cost nearly USD 600 million. Ecuador is also a nation dependent on mining, expecting up to USD 2.8 billion in sales in 2022.

Indigenous groups, on the other hand, still believe the government’s compromises are “insufficient.” They state that the only deal officially signed so far is one regarding debt forgiveness for rural families. 

Blanca Chancoso of the Confederation of Peoples of Kichwa Nationality said if Mr. Lasso fails to deliver on those promises, indigenous groups “might not have another option but to renew their presence on the streets.”