Cross Posted from TarSandsBlockade
Today, indigenous leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon and their allies from the Gulf Coast and Canada, including Amazon Watch, Gulf Coast Idle No More, and Tar Sands Blockade, confronted the Ecuadorian government in Houston as it met with oil company executives and investors to auction off a vast swath of pristine tropical rainforest. While Jaime Vargas, president of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador, and Narcisa Mashienta, a community leader from the Shuar Nationality of Ecuador, attempted to intercept potential investors as they went inside to meet with representatives of the Ecuadorian government, allies rallied outside the Westin Oaks Hotel, holding banners that read “Life is Not Negotiable” and “Solidarity in Struggle”.
The oil tender, known as the XI Round, or Ronda Sur Oriente, was met with major protests when launched on November 27th in Quito. The XI Round is comprised of 21 oil blocks–some 10 million acres–of pristine, roadless rainforest that is the titled territory of seven indigenous nationalities. Several companies, including ARCO, ConocoPhillips, Burlington Resources, and CGC (Compania General de Combustibles) attempted to drill in the controversial area but were forced to pull out due to indigenous opposition. Companies have until May 2013 to bid on the blocks.
Mr. Vargas and Ms. Mashienta will be in Houston until Thursday attending the NAPE (North America Prospect Expo) conference and speaking to companies and investors about the major opposition and uphill battle any potential bidder would face in pursuing drilling activities.
UPDATE: 5:00 pm- An indigenous leader, Narcisa, of the Shuar tribe of the Amazon rainforest, in what is now known as Ecuador, addresses the crowd in Spanish. A Tar Sands Blockader who grew up in the fence-line refining community of Manchester, Houston is translating. Narcisa is the program coordinator of Jungle Mama’s and has a powerful vision and passion to empower the women of Shuar and Achuar.
“As indigenous women, we are mothers, fighters, nurturers of the natural world. We can feel when the earth can no longer reproduce. We are part of the life of the jungle and defenders of the life within it.”
UPDATE: 4:46 pm- Jaime Vargas, the president of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador (NAE) delivers a message from his people to the crowd. A Tar Sands Blockader translates to English for the crowd.
“For us, the indigenous people, the rainforest is life. There we are in touch with everything. But, for the powerful capitalists and materialists it is seen as a business market, a money market, for power and capital. But for us, it is the market of life because we find everything there; our pharmacy, our goods, our education, our science, our knowledge, our force, our creator, are all found in the life of the jungle.”
-Jaime Vargas 2/5/13
UPDATE: 4:15 pm- Houston police display the intrinsic connection between state and the private sector as they prevent indigenous leaders and their allies from re-entering the Westin Hotel at the Galeria Mall in Houston to confront members of the Ecuadorean government who are engaged in auctioning off nearly 10 million acres of precious rainforest inhabited by indigenous people.
UPDATE: 4:10 pm- Chanting and rallying continues outside the hotel. HPD repeatedly threatens to call the riot police!
UPDATE: 3:30 pm- The coalition forced their way into the hotel lobby of the conference. The general manager at the Westin physically grabbed several people and then tried to rip a banner out of the hands of a Tar Sands Blockader. Houston Police Department arrived on scene shortly after and were seen repeatedly taking orders from general manager. The group has now been pushed back out on to the street by the brute force of the HPD.
Amazon Watch is an organization dedicated to protecting the rainforest and advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. They partner with indigenous and environmental organizations, including the Achuar of Ecuador and Peru, the Shuar of Ecuador, the U’wa of Colombia, and the Kichwa of Sarayaku, in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.
Idle No More Gulf Coast is a coalition of indigenous peoples and their allies working to speak out and stand up together to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Idle No More Gulf Coast is proudly sponsored by Grand Caillou-Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, The Gulf Coast Peoples Convention, The Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, and 28 Stones.
Tar Sands Blockade has been organizing a growing movement of resistance to tar sands extraction and working to amplify the voices of the most marginalized communities affected by resource extraction and industrial expansion. Blockaders have been organizing in the East End of Houston where low income communities of color are disproportionately affected by the petro-chemical industry and working to build strong ties with indigenous First Nations in Canada whose lives are directly threatened by tar sands mining.
The actions throughout the week reflect a growing alliance of frontline and fenceline communities from Canada, the Gulf, and the Amazon uniting in defense of their lands, lives, and culture. Opposing transnational corporation exploitation requires a transnational movement.