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  • March carried out by representatives of the Waorani people in Pastaza, Ecuador, 2019.

    March carried out by representatives of the Waorani people in Pastaza, Ecuador, 2019. | Photo: Twitter.com/ @WaoResistencia

Published 12 July 2019

This milestone decision has secured and protected the future of Ecuadorean rainforests from extractive business projects.

In Ecuador, the Provincial Justice Court of Pastaza ruled definitively on Thursday in favor of a protective action whereby the Waorani indigenous people seek to protect half a million acres of Amazon rainforest lands from being ​​​​​​​destined for oil drilling.

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“This victory is for my ancestors, our forest and future generations. And it’s for the whole world,”  Nemonte Nenquimo, the president of the Waorani Pastaza Organization (Conconawep), said after the court's ruling. “We have shown that life is more important than oil and that united we can protect our way of life, the Amazon rainforest and our planet from destruction.”

The provincial court denied the appeal filed by the Environment Ministry and the State Attorney General's Office. In doing so, it upheld the previous ruling issued by a lower court in April, which was related to a protective action proposed by the Waorani to keep their territory free of oil extraction.​​​​​​​

“The appellate court’s verdict clearly confirms that the Waorani have the right to decide over their lives, their territory and their future,“  Lina Espinosa, lawyer for the Waorani from Amazon Frontlines, said on Thursday. “It shows that the Ecuadorian government has been systematically violating that right for decades. This is a precedent for Ecuador and the world.”

"Waorani resistance and rebellion in favor of life and the people. Enough of damages and destruction of Mother Earth and the displacement of her children." The meme reads, "Support my fight, #ResistanceWaorani."

On October 2018, the President Lenin Moreno administration announced the granting of Woarani lands to Colombian and Peruvian private companies.

In response to the legal actions taken by the Waorani, a city-level court in Pastaza ordered the Ecuadorian executive on April to carry out a "prior consultation" with the affected indigenous peoples.

On July 1, the Environment Ministry appealed such ruling before the provincial court, arguing that the Ecuadorian State made a prior consultation in 2012 and it already had the approval of the Waorani to oil exploitation projects.​​​​​​​

Nevertheless, the Waorani claimed that the supposed 2012 consultation and approval were achieved with "cheating, food and gifts."​​​​​​​

Moreover, in their protective action, the Waorani held that the Ecuadorian government had violated constitutional rights related to the right of the indigenous peoples' self-determination and the right of prior, free and informed consultation on plans to exploit non-renewable resources on their lands.​​​​​​​

The veredict issued by the provincial court on Thursday prevents the Ecuadorian government from auctioning indigenous lands to oil companies. It also sets a legal precedent for other indigenous nations to take legal actions to prevent the auctioning of more than 7 million acres to companies.​​​​​​​

The Amazon basin in South America, which holds the world’s largest neotropical rainforest, is the home of about 1 million indigenous peoples. They are part of over 400 nations, each of one has its own language, culture and territory, Survival International explained.

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