British singer Roger Waters landed in Ecuador’s capital as he planned to visit the Ecuadorean Amazon to learn about the extent of the contamination that took place in the region as a result of oil exploration by the U.S. fossil fuel company Chevron.
Initially, Waters was blocked from flying to Lago Agrio in the Amazonian region to meet with Indigenous communities affected by the Chevron oil exploration for decades but was eventually granted permission to do so after he confronted the airport authorities about not being allowed to carry out the trip.
When trying to understand the flight holdup to Lago Agrio Waters asked airport authorities through an interpreter: "These flights go out all the time. Why is there an issue today like we’re seeing? Where is this coming from? Whose issue is this because someone is (blocking our leaving)."
Authorities merely told the famed musician there were 'operational issues' and that they were trying to resolve the problem quickly. "Can I speak with someone higher up the ladder because this is ridiculous, trying to stop me from visiting these people?" Waters asked civilly. He pleaded with the airport authority saying he's trying "trying to help your brothers and sisters, these are your Ecuadorean brothers and sisters. We’re trying to help them."
Soon after Waters was allowed to take flight from the Quito airport to Lago Agrio far into Ecuador's Amazon.
Previously, two lawyers of the Indigenous people affected by the Chevron oil exploitation in the country's Amazon region told teleSUR that Roger Waters had planned to go to Lago Agrio but authorities seemed to be blocking his landing with his plane at the city and only allowing him to land in Quito.
“We got word that the government of Ecuador is trying to deny (Roger Waters’) plane the right to land in Lago Agrio which would completely screw up the whole day,” Steven Donziger, the lawyer representing the affected communities in the United States, told teleSUR as he waited for Waters’ plane to land in Quito. “There’s probably 30-40 affected people in the Lago Agrio airport right now waiting for his arrival and a lot of journalists.”
Donziger further argued that “Chevron is trying to block Roger Waters from coming into Ecuador because they don't want people to know the truth about Chevron’s environmental crimes in this country.”
The lawyer added that the legal team is trying to get Roger the permission he needs to land this private plane in Lago Agrio.
Meanwhile, Agustin Salazar, the local lawyer for the affected indigenous people, told teleSUR earlier in the day that their flight he and his team who are organizing Waters’ visit to the Amazon in Ecuador had been canceled for no apparent reason.
“Today when we went to Quito airport to fly to Lago Agrio to have a press conference with Roger Waters mysteriously all of our flights were canceled without receiving any adequate answer,” Salazar said from the main Quito airport.
“We also have indications that the airplane of Roger Waters is having obstacles to fly from Quito to Lago Agrio to talk about the contamination caused by Chevron.
“This is extremely worrying because the authorities voted in by civil society are, in some way, completing the expectations of Chevron because in some form they are putting up obstacles against the press conference and the support of this important international figure.”
With his visit to Ecuador, Waters, fierce human rights and left-wing activists, interrupted his Latin American tour “Us + Them” in which he is vocal about social issues in different countries including Palestinian struggle against Israel and recently denouncing Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro over his fascist tendencies.
In 2007, the Ecuadorean state presented an environmental initiative to refrain from drilling in the Yasuni National Park if wealthier nations donated US$3.6 billion, a little over half the expected national revenue from oil in the area.
The government of Rafael Correa argued that keeping the oil in the ground would avoid creating 410 million metric tones of carbon dioxide.
However, the initiative was scrapped in 2013 after it brought in less than 4 percent of the amount requested.
Correa’s government blamed the international community for the plan's failure. Ecuador is OPEC’s smallest member and has suffered heavily from the international fall in oil prices. Around half of the country's income comes from oil, according to the World Bank.