Indigenous activists are being targeted in the Amazon
March 13, 2023
Trigger warning: This email contains information about the ongoing oppression and violence directed at Indigenous peoples.
I want to share a story about the Indigenous community of A’i Cofán de Dureno with you. While a bit of a longer post, this is the story of an ongoing struggle that began almost 500 years ago and continues to this day.
The A’i Cofán de Dureno, which is in the province of Sucumbíos, in the northern Amazon was one of the first communities where oil extraction took place in Ecuador starting in 1972. Since then, this Indigenous community of 750 inhabitants who hold title and protect 23, 650 acres of the forest, have been actively resisting the expansion and extraction of oil – even in the face of growing violence by the Ecuadorian government and oil companies.
In the 90s, the community shut down oil blocks in their territories due to the lack of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the impact of permanent oil spills on residents’ health. Most recently, the state-owned petroleum company Petroecuador has reopened these wells and is now actively lobbying to build 30 new wells in the same area.
The A’i Cofán de Dureno continue to resist and reject any oil development in their region. Over the last year, A’i Cofán set up resistance camps to prevent Petroecuador from building roadway infrastructure that would aid in the oil exploration. One member among them was Eduardo Mendúa, a land and environmental defender and the International Relations secretary of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) who’s been leading the resistance. Mendúa was murdered at his home on Feb 26th.
Oil companies like Petroecuador go hand in glove with corrupt governments.
Oil companies enact systemic violence against Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples’ efforts to protect the environment are further criminalized by the state. Globally, we have seen this story repeated time and again. The goal always being to squeeze every last bit of oil from Indigenous Peoples’ territories. The murder of Mendúa is the latest show of oil companies’ ruthless pursuit of profit with little regard for human life, Indigenous sovereignty, FPIC, and the planet.
The Amazon is home not only to A’i Cofán de Dureno but to 1.5 Million Indigenous Peoples and to nearly 500 distinct ethnic groups – all of whom have been the stewards of the land for millennia. Stand.earth, as an environmental advocacy group in the Global North working to secure protections for the Amazon, follows the guidance and the vision of the Indigenous leaders and organizations in the region.
It is crucial for us to uplift the stories from the frontlines of the Amazon and share the real and urgent risks that Indigenous peoples face daily to protect their ancestral homes with our community. The story of A’i Cofán de Dureno is one of many in the Amazon as oil development continues to wreak havoc in the region.
Amazonia for Life: 80% by 2025
The Amazonia for Life: 80% by 2025 initiative was first envisioned and then born from the Indigenous communities across the Amazon basin. They are calling on the world to take action to stop the destruction of this vital ecosystem and their home. This call is urgent because as you are reading this, another acre of the Amazon has been lost.
Will you answer the call to action and sign the declaration to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025 and help ensure that this initiative is part of the global agenda to fight the climate crisis?
With the backing of tens of thousands of people, organizations, scientists, and global leaders, we’ve been able to secure the first step to achieving the 80×25 goal. In the last Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, we supported the Indigenous leaders in getting Indigenous Territories officially added to the global biodiversity protection agreement. A global win that ensures financial backing and ramp-up opportunities to cement this vision into a reality.
When governments and oil companies continue to target Indigenous land and water defenders, we cannot remain silent. We can’t grow calluses around the loss of life and culture. Conservation efforts alone are not enough to protect the Amazon; it also requires respecting the rights of Indigenous communities and supporting their work to defend their homes against the extractive industries that seek to exploit their land.
You can play a part in securing vital protection for the Amazon and its people by pressuring governments to hold oil companies accountable, by signing the Amazonia for Life declaration here.