Ecuador Will Keep Some Oil in the Ground – by Manuela Andreoni and David Gelles (New York Times – August 22, 2023)

59 percent of voters sided with young activists in a referendum.

Ecuador voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to halt oil drilling in one of the most biodiverse places on earth. With almost all ballots counted, 59 percent of voters sided with the young activists who spent a decade fighting for the referendum, as we wrote last week.

It is widely considered to be the first time a country’s citizens voted decisively to leave oil in the ground. In a separate referendum, Ecuadoreans also voted to block mining in a biosphere reserve. “The answer from the Ecuadorean people suggests to us that the people are proposing a different way to live,” Monserrat Vásquez, an anti-mining activist, told reporters after the victory was announced.

The referendum requires Petroecuador, the state-owned oiled company, to cease operations on the edge of Yasuní National Park, dismantle its drilling infrastructure, and reforest and restore the drilling site. The oil will keep flowing in dozens of other sites in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

The struggle in Ecuador wasn’t just about containing global warming. It was also meant to protect a patch of rainforest that is home to two isolated Indigenous tribes, the Tagaeri and Taromenane. That’s a battle that is playing out throughout the region, and the world.

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