Ecology and Interests

QUITO/BERLIN | | ecuador

QUITO/BERLIN (Own report) - Ecuadoran partners of right-wing German foundations are using an ecological campaign to weaken the government's pursuit of an autonomous development for the country. They are using the conflict over the Yasuní-ITT-Initiative, which began a few years ago, to facilitate Ecuador's renunciation of oil extraction in the ecologically highly sensitive Yasuní National Park. Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has declared the initiative a failure last summer. One of the reasons for this failure is Germany's withdrawal of its support for the project. The Ecuadorian Ambassador to Germany, Jorge Jurado, has confirmed, in an interview with german-foreign-policy.com that Germany's withdrawal from the project had "very significantly" contributed to this failure. The Ecuadoran President's announcement that oil will be permitted to be extracted from a small area of the national park is now being protested. The old Ecuadoran elite, which, unlike Correa, has always loyally served North American and West European interests, is also joining the protests. They are, in turn, supported by several German party-affiliated foundations.

The Yasuní-ITT-Initiative

The current Ecuadoran conflict revolves around President Rafael Correa's decision to return to extracting oil from a small area of the Yasuní National Park. This decision is based on the failure of the Yasuní-ITT-Initiative that President Correa had launched in 2007, with the objective of facilitating a halt to the extraction of oil from reserves in the national park. UNESCO declared Yasuní a biosphere reserve in 1989, which is home to unique biodiversity. Nevertheless, Ecuador is economically dependent on oil, which made up 57.8 percent of the country's exports in 2011. To compensate for its renunciation of oil extraction, the Yasuní-ITT-Initiative foresaw a global donation campaign into a trust fund. This fund would be used to finance the development of alternative energy projects, as well as projects to enhance the country's much needed health and education, for which the oil revenues had been originally planned. Prosperous industrialized nations, having achieved their prosperity at the expense of ecological necessities, and today profit from that accumulated wealth, have also been called upon to contribute.

Germany's Contribution to the Failure

When merely US $13 million had been donated to the Yasuní-ITT-Trust Fund, at the end of six years, rather than the needed US $3.5 billion, the Ecuadoran government terminated the initiative. Germany had played a special role in this decision. At first, Berlin had earmarked a significant contribution to the Yasuní-ITT-Fund and to the promotion of the project. In 2010, however, Berlin dropped the project, a step of international symbolic importance. That Germany was no longer participating, "significantly impeded the initiative" confirmed Ecuador's Ambassador to Germany, Jorge Jurado, in an interview with german-foreign-policy.com.[1] In the meantime, protests against the decision to return to extracting oil in the Yasuní National Park have begun. These protests are not only sponsored by ecological organizations and organizations of indigenous groups, but also by political partners of German right-wing party-affiliated foundations, which have never been known for their support for ecological causes. Their involvement is based on tactical considerations concerning Ecuador's current social development.

Curse of Natural Resources

The journalist Christine Ax recently published an article on this issue in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), wherein she explains that for countries such as Ecuador, their wealth in natural resources has, in many respects, "become a curse." Ax explains that at first, "the colonial powers" and "since the 1950s, the authoritarian regimes" in numerous South American countries have insured that the local populations would "not benefit from the natural resources of their regions." In the 1980s, "neo-liberal policies with privatization programs" had included also the natural resource sectors, while "a broad based social movement in opposition had begun to take form."[2] For good reasons, as can be seen in Ecuador, where the Texaco Oil Company could exploit the rich deposits - including in Ecuador's ecologically highly sensitive Amazon region. As His Excellency Jurado explains in his talk with editors of german-foreign-policy.com, Texaco (in the meantime taken over by Chevron) violated important agreements on ecology and withdrew from the country in 1992 - leaving environmental devastation behind.[3] The affected populations defended themselves and began, already in 1993, lawsuits against the oil company, which was obstinately refusing to pay indemnities. (For more details see our interview.) German companies were also involved in projects in Ecuador, constituting massive dangers for the environment. Ten years ago for example, there were massive protests against the oil pipeline, which at the time, was co-financed by the German WestLB. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4])

Crucial Test

As Christine Ax explains, since the 1980s, the idea "that nature's wealth belongs to everyone and that nature must be protected," has been gaining ground in Latin America - particularly in Ecuador and Bolivia, where, in the meantime, governments "have been elected with the mandate" to facilitate the practical enforcement of this idea. The governments of both countries are upheld by broad social movements and, for the first time - with the support of a wide variety of social forces ranging from indigenous organizations to urban ecological movements - have given ecological questions a special legal status in the countries' jurisprudence. Ax describes this as a "rethinking (...) that is attracting attention around the world." Because both countries are poor and - since the beginning of colonial plunder - are dependent upon export of their natural resources, conflicts of objectives have cropped up among the social movements. Whereas, for some, the priorities lie in combating poverty and carrying out educational programs, for others, ecology is the focus. For example, the Ecuadoran government's Yasuní decision has sparked a conflict that "could prove to be a crucial test for domestic peace" for the country.[5]

No Environmental Activist

In fact, some of the old Ecuadoran elite circles view this Yasuní "crucial test" as their opportunity. In Quito, the traditional partners of the USA and Western Europe had to hand over power to Rafael Correa at the beginning of 2007, who won the elections through the support of social movements.[6] The Yasuní conflict, now provides the opportunity to weaken that government - also by splitting these social movements. For example, the organization, CREO quickly took a stand, and began collecting signatures opposing oil extraction. CREO is hardly known for its ecological fervor. CREO supports the re-election of the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, who, back in 1996, was described in the daily press as having a "complacent attitude" toward Texaco, in the conflict over the oil catastrophe in the Amazon region.[7] Guillermo Lasso, former CREO presidential candidate, has now explicitly reconfirmed, that he has "never been an environmental activist."[8]

The Old, Loyal Elites

The CREO organization, which is seeking to deflect the winds of the Yasuní conflict to its own mill - as well as its affiliated circles - is supported by German foreign policy front organizations. The CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation, for example, carried out a "Seminar for Leadership of the CREO Movement" from the Loja province. Its "objective" was to analyze "new forms of Latin American policy and the important elements for implementing political strategies."[9] The CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation is cooperating with Jaime Nebot's Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), which takes credit for having provided CREO presidential candidate, Lasso, a large portion of his votes in the last elections.[10] The Seidel Foundation declares that it supports "Christian social and Christian democratic groupings" in the "reconstruction of a broad-based national bourgeois-democratic platform."[11] This is a euphemistic description of the attempt to reinforce that sector of the old elite, organized in the PSC. The long-term objective of this policy is to bring the old elite, which for decades had loyally served German interests, back into power in Quito - and thereby, put an end to the attempts to establish an autonomous national development without primary consideration for the Old West.[12]

[1] see also Die ökologischen Schulden der Industrieländer
[2] Christine Ax: Rohstoffdiplomatie auf Abwegen; www.faz.net 29.10.2013
[3] see also Die ökologischen Schulden der Industrieländer
[4] see also Deutsches Öko-Projekt - "sehr ertragreich"
[5] Christine Ax: Rohstoffdiplomatie auf Abwegen; www.faz.net 29.10.2013
[6] see also Elitenwechsel mit Folgen
[7] Todos aborrecemos a Texaco; www.hoy.com.ec 19.06.1996
[8] Guillermo Lasso rechaza críticas por defender el Yasuní y apoya reelección del alcalde Nebot; www.ecuadorinmediato.com 29.08.2013
[9] Der neue lateinamerikanische Wähler; www.kas.de 20.04.2013
[10] Nebot dice que votos de Lasso fueron del PSC; www.lahora.com.ec 21.02.2013
[11] Ecuador; www.hss.de
[12] see also Elitenwechsel mit Folgen