By Marion V. Ali
Ecuadorians have rejected a petition for a referendum to determine whether there should be further oil exploration in the Yasuni National Park in the Amazon.
According to the National Electoral Council not enough signatures appeared on the petition to force a referendum. The council validated 359,781 of the 850,000 signatures collected. This represents well under the 583,323 required by Ecuadorian law. It also claims that there were repeated signatures or incomplete signatures. According to the council, some of the names were even those written by children. In other cases, some of the signatories claimed they had used the names of fictional movie characters. But Yasunidos activists who collected the signatures have sharply denied this.
The Yasunidos oppose more oil drilling in the park, saying it would damage one of the world’s richest areas of biodiversity. It says it intends to take the matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, following its claim last month that it had collected enough signatures and was confident it would trigger a referendum.
For the past four decades there has been limited oil exploitation taking place in parts of the Yasuni National Park, which covers nearly 3,860 square miles. In 2013, however, President Rafael Correa abandoned a conservation plan that would have seen wealthy nations pay Ecuador not to drill in previously untouched parts of the park because the initiative had attracted only a fraction of the $3.6 billion that it had aimed to raise. This leaves Ecuador with no choice but to proceed with drilling, especially since oil is the country’s main export.
Yasuni oilfields hold an estimated 846 million barrels or 20 percent of Ecuador’s reserves.
(Map: BBC World)