There is deeply disappointing news for all of us who’ve been following the progress of Ecuador’s proposal to leave some 850 million barrels of crude oil beneath the country’s stunning Yasuní National Park. President Rafael Correa seems to have suddenly turned against the initiative, undermining his own negotiating team, denouncing the foreign donors whose support had been painstakingly courted over the last two years, and threatening to drill in June.
The Yasuní initiative seeks international compensation to the tune of $350 million per year to keep the oil in the ground permanently and thereby avoid deforestation and the emission of some 410 million tonnes of CO2.
Amazon Watch reports that, in his weekly radio address on 9 January, Correa slammed the team led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fander Falconi for accepting conditions that were ‘unacceptable’ and ‘shameful’. Correa called the effort a threat to the country’s sovereignty, just as the team prepared to seal a deal for an international trust fund administered by the UN Development Programme. But it seems likely that in reality he had simply given in to factions within his Cabinet that did not want the deal to be signed, as well as last-minute pressure from Petroecuador and other interested oil companies.
‘Let the Northern countries keep their money,’ Correa declared, sending shockwaves through Ecuador and the world, which had rallied around the proposal, and prompting the resignation of Falconi and many of the team who’d been working on the initiative.
This is not the first time Correa has damaged the initiative’s chances, though it may have been his last act of sabotage, as the proposal’s credibility and donor confidence may now be beyond repair.