Voting Referendums Will Determine Management of Country’s Future Energy Development and Preservation of Natural Resources
BURLINGTON – Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) released the following statement ahead of elections in Ecuador on August 20:
“Violent crime, often gang-related, in Ecuador has tragically claimed thousands of lives and will be a key hurdle the country’s next elected leader must overcome. The assassinations of political leaders have shaken the country and demonstrate how equally important and fragile a free and fair electoral process is in the country. I will continue to stand with the Ecuadorian people as they demand a return to peace and a stronger democracy,” said Sen. Welch.
“I am also encouraged by this opportunity for the Ecuadorian people to shape their national debate on climate change in the wake of this long, destructive history. It is a chance for Ecuador to take a decisive step to protect its Indigenous cultures, tropical forests, and wildlife, all of which have global significance. But the transition to renewable energy is not an issue Ecuador can or should address on its own. All countries, including the United States, must take vigorous steps to generate renewable energy and ensure that their most vulnerable communities are not harmed or left behind in the process,” he continued.
Ecuador’s citizens will go to the polls on August 20 to elect a new president and legislature after President Guillermo Lasso’s dissolution of his own presidency and the legislative branch. The country will also hold two referendums: one on whether to ban new oil extraction and close all current active wells in the Yasuní National Park, and a local referendum in Quito on whether to prevent gold mining in the Chocó Andino Forest. These forests, two of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, were designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in 1989 and 2018, respectively.
In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to grant nature constitutionally protected rights and to give citizens a say in the protection of the environment and the management of the country’s natural resources. This month, Ecuadorians have the opportunity to chart a different course for the future of energy development in their country, improve Indigenous livelihoods, and preserve the Amazon’s critical biodiversity.
Oil extraction and mining have caused existential harm to Ecuador’s Indigenous communities, in this case the Waorani people living in voluntary isolation in Yasuní National Park, and to the Amazon’s unique biodiversity. According to Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, there have been more than 1,500 reported oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the last decade alone, which amounts to an average of more than twelve each month. Destructive mining in the country has also caused permanent harm to the environment and long-term economic losses in the local and regional agriculture and ecotourism industries.