Guadalupe Llori, governor of the Amazonian province of Orellana, was seized from her home and arrested on December 8 by the Ecuadorian military and charged with terrorism and sabotage for her support of the local strikes and protests. Locals who assembled at her house to contest her arrest were dispersed with tear gas.
For the last couple of weeks, protests and road blocks have been taking place particularly in the oil-producing community of Dayuma, on ancestral lands of the Huaorani and Tagaeri peoples who were displaced in the 1960s and 70s by the oil companies, paving the way for many poor settlers from other areas in search for a better life. Especially inhabitants of Loja in the Andes and Manabí at the coast which experienced a severe drought at the time moved to this part of the Amazon when the Agrarian Reform opened up the rainforest as no-man’s land to be claimed by anyone able to cut down 50% of the trees of a given piece of land.
This is the latest of 11 protests over the last 9 years which have brought Dayuma – and its oil production – virtually to a standstill. The strikes are intended to make the government and the oil companies operating in the area notice that the people of Orellana “are citizens, too”, whose interests need to be taken into consideration when making (or omitting) decisions which have serious consequences on their lives.
The current protest concerns in particular the failure to asphalt major stretches of the road to Dayuma (40 km south of Coca), improve basic services, such as clean water and electricity, promises long made and never kept by a series of Ecuadorian governments. Moreover, the people are asking for oil workers to be recruited locally, and oil spills and other environmental disasters to be cleaned up and remedied.
President Correa, however, has made his intolerance towards protests around oil wells and other production structures crystal clear and declared a State of Emergency in Orellana. Civil rights have been suspended. Curfews from 10 pm – 5 am are in place in many larger settlements, including Dayuma, which now resembles a village ravaged by civil war. Many of its 2800 inhabitants have disappeared – deeper into the forest, or to stay with family elsewhere – leaving the place half abandoned. Some women and children have remained in some of the wooden houses and shacks from where they now watch about 1000 fully armed military personnel patrol the area non-stop in order to “guarantee oil production”. 22 people still remain incarcerated in Tena after a violent raid of Dayuma on November 30. Amongst them the local watermelon vendor, the tyre mender, the newspaper distributor, the welding assistant, the baker. All are facing terrorism and sabotage charges, and could be sentenced with 12 years in prison.
The road blocks (which were successful for about 10 days) are said to have cost the state-owned oil company PETROECUADOR almost 3 million dollars daily, bringing down production by 36 barrels a day.
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