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News > Ecuador

Ecuador's Waorani People Win Another Victory Against Government

  • Waorani leaders during a virtual press conference on May 21, to inform about the Covid-19 situation in their territory.

    Waorani leaders during a virtual press conference on May 21, to inform about the Covid-19 situation in their territory. | Photo: Amazon Frontlines / Mitch Anderson

Published 18 June 2020

“Ecuadorian justice ruled in favor of our request (...) in the face of government inaction (...),” President of the Waorani nation said.

Indigenous Waorani People of Ecuador's Amazon won Wednesday in an Ecuadorean court precautionary measures requiring the government to take urgent actions against the spread of the new coronavirus in Waorani territory, NGO Amazon Frontlines has reported.


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“Today, Ecuadorean justice ruled in favor of our request for precautionary measures in the face of government inaction during this pandemic,” President of the Waorani nation Gilberto Nenquimo said in a statement.

“The Waorani people and our uncontacted relatives are in great danger as the virus continues to spread rapidly across the Amazon. Unfortunately, the government’s response has been inadequate and they have not coordinated with our leadership. We are glad that the judge ordered precautionary measures, but we must remain vigilant,” Nenquimo added.

The court ruling demands coordination from the state with the Waorani leadership to conduct COVID-19 testing with the aid of medical staff with intercultural experience; adequate and sufficient medical supplies to local community health centers; and, adequate and culturally relevant information to the Waorani.

Filed late last month, the lawsuit was directed at Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno and Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner.

Yet, a key demand for a moratorium on all extractive activities in Waorani territory, due to the early appearance of COVID-19 infection in communities close to oil roads, remained unanswered. 

Despite increased risks to exposure since the beginning of the outbreak, oil operations and legal and illegal logging have continued across the Ecuadorian Amazon leaving contacted and uncontacted people to face a catastrophe. 

While the judge did not rule in favor of a moratorium, the ruling still requires the Ministry of Environment and Water to send a report within eight days detailing its monitoring of illegal mining, logging, and narco-trafficking in Waorani territory. 

The Ministry of Environment and Water and the Secretariat of Human Rights are also required to provide information on the COVID-19 protocols of oil companies in order to establish whether adequate health and safety measures are in place to prevent further contagion in Waorani communities.

The Waorani currently number around 5,000 in three provinces of the Amazon. They are the most recently contacted of all Ecuadorean indigenous peoples, first reached by a missionary group from the United States in the 1960s. 

Since that time, their territories have been significantly reduced, and their remaining lands impacted by logging, oil extraction, and colonist settlement, among other issues, according to Amazon Frontlines.

Last year, they won a landmark legal battle to protect over half a million acres of land from exploitation by big oil companies. While this was a significant victory, the fight to protect these vital ecosystems is far from over, and the Waorani continue to resist and fight for their rights and lands every day.

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