Amazonian Tribe in Ecuador Victorious Against Big Oil in Court

Judge rules to block oil companies from entering indigenous Amazonian land

Waorani tribe members in court in Pastaza province

Ecuador’s indigenous Waorani tribe won their first victory against oil companies in court this week.

A judge ruled to block their entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands.

The federal government had recently opened up nearly half a million acres for oil exploration, even though Ecuador’s constitution establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands.”

So the Waorani appealed to the courts for protection and won.

After two weeks of deliberations, the criminal court granted the Waorani’s plea to stop the oil bidding process.

The legality of extracting oil from indigenous land is complicated. While the tribe legally owns the topsoil and everything above it, the state owns the mineral wealth buried deep beneath the surface.

The constitution requires prior consultation with indigenous peoples on any plans to exploit underground resources, to minimize  environmental and cultural impacts.

The state reached an agreement with the Waorani in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders say they were duped, reports

“It has been demonstrated that there was no consultation and that the state violated the rights of this people,” said Lina Maria Espinosa, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The ruling “has created a significant precedent for the Amazon,” Espinoza said.