Sarayacu resists!

05.Dic.03    Análisis y Noticias

After decades of deforestation of tropical rainforest in the amazon basin the ecuadorian state and oil companies are trying to enter oil fields in the last pristine forests, some of them even under state “protection”.

Sarayacu fights against government and oil companies in Ecuador

After decades of deforestation of tropical rainforest in the amazon basin the ecuadorian state and oil companies are trying to enter oil fields in the last pristine forests, some of them even under state “protection”. All held in the name of economic growth and progress, oil exploitation leads to, as uncountable events in the recent past have shown, destruction and contamination of vast areas and cultural destruction of people who’s life depend on the forest.

Impacts of oil on tropical rainforest

During exploration, hundreds of hectares of forest are deforested. For each well, 2 hectares of wood must be deforested. During oil and gas exploratory perforation hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of toxic waste are thrown into the environment without any treatment.

Once the well starts operating, both routine contamination as well as accidental occurs. Contamination occurs when the formation water (a by-product of the refining process rich in salts and toxic elements) is separated and the associated gas is flared. Contamination affects mainly water sources, thus aquatic life.

Moreover it generates social impacts such as forced relocation of traditional communities, health impacts due to contamination and the scarcity of resources, etc…

Recent events

One of the affected regions is the so-called block 23 in the ecuadorian part of the Amazon Basin, which also is considered to be territorry of the kitchua people of Sarayacu.
For over a years of time they’re facing an open, sometimes armed confrontaion with the argentinan oil company CGC-Burlington and the ecuadorian army.
Sarayacu is an indigenous community which has been struggeling for decades with oil exploration in their territory and since then they have succeded several times against other companies who wanted to do likewise. They show no sign of changing their mind towards the campaign of lies of CGC-Burlington.

According to members of the community, none of all the promises, money and jobs offered by the company could ever replace the health of their environment. Their culture values protecton of all that exists in relation with the forest which they call home, and strictly forbids every kind of activity which leads to its destruction.
Access to the community of Sarayacu is only possible via the river Bobonza or airplanes.

Since october 2002 Sarayacu is under a state of siege by the military, which are located at the borders of their territory as well as blocking the only river access.
Already once they could repel the attempt of the military to invade their area, and disarm the soldiers while only armed with spears themselves.
Because of international support it was possible to adress an accusation of human rights abuse to the International Court of the Americas; nevertheless the Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez announced that the military would begin the invasion of the territory in december in order to make the drillings possible.


The situation in Sarayaku is getting worse each moment. Government and military officials stressed several times that oil explorations are operations of national priority which means that they can thereby also ignore constitutional territorial rights of the community of Sarayacu.

In order to get access to the territories of Sarayacu, they use different strategies:

Some of the indigenous communities have already been corrupted (or “bought”) by promises and “presents” (including money, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and western goods) of the oil company. One strategy is to create or deepen conflicts between different tribes, communities or even within the communities themselves. Therfore they spread lies, slanderings and false information. Already corrupted communities are convinced that resisting communities are fighting against economic development and “progress” and thus against their own wellbeing.
In the area close to Saryacu there are two other communities which actively support the river blockade of the military.

When this strategy fails there’s still the option of open repression. People are convicted
with delinquencies (owing to good relations with courts and prosecuters), intimidated and sometimes even killed with the murder declared accidental.

Officially, the stationary of military forces near Sarayacu is denied (although there is an tremendous amount of counterevidence).
The case is almost unknown to ecuadorian public and receives little media coverage.

Resistance and upcoming events

Because of the high probability of military invasion within the next few weeks and the fact that the community in that case will defend themselves with arms, several actions are planned.
Because of their geographical isolation, they have no way of resisting in a non-violent way.
On december 5th and 6th, several demonstrations, actions and workshops will take place in the nearby city of Puyo. The intention is to make the problems of Sarayacu known to as many people as possible and to increase pressure on the government

Be creative, think about possible actions ( embassy ?!) and spread the word!
Sarayacu is only one out of many communities in Ecuador and other countries, which are facing the destruction of their living habitat.

For more information, see:

Viva Sarayacu! Oil companies, get the hell out off Amazonia!