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Propaganda as “News”: Ecuador Sells out Indigenous & the Environment to China

February 15, 2016

by Stansfield Smitth

Ecuador Image 1 Pachamama

 

Above: Pachamama Alliance Screenshot

 

The end of January a news article appeared, “Ecuador To Sell A Third Of Its Amazon Rainforest To Chinese Oil Companies,” and has resurfaced again and again on the internet. Posted on progressive websites such as Reader Supported News, Daily Kos, “The PeoplesVoice.org,” “ThinkGlobalGreen.org,” the story often comes with maps of the affected area, and include pictures of indigenous peoples living peaceably with nature or protesting against oil drilling.

Almost all these stories refer back to one article three years ago, in March 2013, in Australian online journal Business Insider:

“Ecuador is planning to auction off three million of the country’s 8.1 million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies, Jonathan Kaiman of The Guardian reports.” And, “Ecuador owed China more than $7 billion — more than a tenth of its GDP — as of last summer. In 2009 China began loaning Ecuador billions of dollars in exchange for oil shipments. It also helped fund two of the country’s biggest hydroelectric infrastructure projects, and China National Petroleum Corp may soon have a 30 per cent stake in a $10 billion oil refinery in Ecuador.”[i]

The rest of the article becomes a platform for Adam Zuckerman of the US based NGO Amazon Watch to spin his tale of China colonizing Ecuador, with President Correa willingly selling out the environment and the indigenous peoples to pay off his China debt.

The problem is that the story is an invention. This same story slamming Ecuador President Correa and China for forcibly displacing indigenous people and destroying the rainforest for the sake of oil profits reappeared in June-July 2015. This just happened to coincide with a rightwing protests in Ecuador against Correa, over his raising taxes on the rich.

Business Insider takes its disinformation story from another March 2013 Guardian article titled, “Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms” [ii] an article which provides no evidence to support its title. This Guardian article also mostly relies on Zuckerman of Amazon Watch.

Both articles never state Ecuador did actually sell Amazon rainforests to Chinese companies; they allege Ecuador “planned” to sell a third, though this “plan” is not corroborated by any evidence. Now almost three years later, no rainforest has yet to be sold to China, but the same concocted story is repeated.

Last November, International Business Times reported Ecuador’s China debt totaled $5 billion, while the country’s central bank said entire foreign debt was $20 billion,[iii] making China’s share only a quarter of the total. Ecuador also has one of the lowest foreign debt to GDP (22.4%) in Latin America.[iv] This hardly substantiates the view that Ecuador is in hock to China.

The Guardian has a history of dishonest reporting on Ecuador. Christian Tym[v], Aliya Alwi,[vi] and Carlos Abad[vii], Ecuador Ambassador to Britain, have all addressed it.

What has happened is that in January 2016 – three years after the Guardian article – Ecuador sold exploration rights to a Chinese company for $80 million to search for oil in an area of the Amazon one and half times the size of Los Angeles. To place this in context, global oil exploration is an almost trillion dollar business.[viii]

Certainly Ecuador has a right to explore for oil, as do Chinese companies, which unlike Western corporations, agree to technology and technological know-how transfers to the countries they do business with.

And, for comparison, the Alberta tar sands oil fields are 1,500 times the size of the small area Ecuador opened up for oil exploration in the Yasuni. In comparison, too, last May Obama approved oil drilling in the Artic Sea, where 20 billion barrels of oil and 90 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are now more available due to the melting of Arctic ice sheets.

Why do we repeatedly see dishonest news articles about President Correa sacrificing the environment and the indigenous to China’s thirst for oil? This has even developed into an anti-Correa campaign by some US NGOs such as Amazon Watch, which is sullying its well-deserved reputation as a leader in the struggle to make Chevron pay for its environmental crimes in Ecuador.[ix]

There has been a several year old campaign attacking both Correa and China for drilling for oil in the Amazon, supposedly against the wishes of the indigenous who live there. However, as former president Humberto Cholango of the Ecuadoran indigenous federation, CONAIE stated:

“Many nationalities of the Amazonia say “look, we are the owners of the territory, and yes we want it to be exploited.” [x]

They find it against their interest to leave valuable natural wealth untouched while their people go without adequate schools, housing, roads, medical care and employment.

This anti-Correa campaign happens to coincide with the successes of Ecuador’s legal case against Chevron to make it pay up the $9.5 billion owed for its deliberate oil pollution of a vast area of the Amazon. Chevron, with its powers as a giant multinational corporation, has fought back in and out of court, even seeking to take to court the 30,000 victims and their lawyers. [xi]

Christian Tym also notes:

“Ever since Julian Assange was granted asylum, western media and NGOs have been taking free hits at Ecuador.”[xii]

The Amazon Watch campaign against President Correa

Amazon Watch has waged a continual disinformation campaign against Correa’s Citizens Revolution in Ecuador.[xiii] In 2013 the West snubbed Ecuador’s Yasuni Initiative, a proposal to keep Yasuni rainforest oil untouched in a revolutionary anti-global warming initiative if the Western countries reimbursed Ecuador for half the value of the oil. Amazon Watch used the Initiative’s failure not so much to expose Western government indifference to real action on global warming, but declared, “Correa’s own contradictory policies and mismanagement of the initiative may have been its ultimate undoing.”[xiv]

Perhaps Amazon Watch’s most outrageous article was one supporting the right-wing backed anti-Correa protests in August 2015. “While police massacre indigenous protesters and citizens, the Government of Rafael Correa dances in the Presidential plaza….All of the rights won by the indigenous nationalities have been repealed, just as the system of bilingual intercultural education, indigenous health services, economic funds, and political organization….Violent confrontations with citizens ensued and resulted in numerous people disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and dead across the country.”[xv]

That this is deliberate disinformation can be seen from a film of the protestors that day attacking the police in an attempt to seize the presidential palace.[xvi]

It may not be clear why Amazon Watch engages in this disinformation against this target of the US government, President Correa. But it is clear this NGO relies on corporate backed funders,[xvii] and markets to corporate elite clientele tours to the “pristine” Amazon and its “natives.” [xviii]

It is also clear the US rulers are preoccupied with combating China as the only world power it sees directly threatening its global domination[xix], a central reason for the anti-China TransPacific Partnership (TPP). In fact, China provides loans at low interest rates, does not intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, respects other countries’ paths of economic and political development, and encourages South-South cooperation as a counter to Western hegemony. It cannot be coincidence that Amazon Watch – or the Guardian – portray China as the new colonizer, as the global power responsible for the concocted environmental and human rights abuses they attribute to Correa.

 

 

[Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee, co-administrator of Facebook page, Friends of Ecuador –North America, leader of former Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, has been on delegations to Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia in 2015.]

 

 

[i] http://www.businessinsider.com.au/ecuador-selling-its-rainforest-to-china-2013-3

[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/26/ecuador-chinese-oil-bids-amazon

[iii] http://www.brecorder.com/markets/equity/americas/267764-ecuador-vows-to-pay-debt-for-first-time-ever.html

[iv] http://www.elciudadano.gob.ec/ecuador-es-uno-de-los-paises-latinoamericanos-con-menor-deuda-externa/

[v] http://www.importantcool.com/murder-amazon-guardians-quest-correa/#more-1634

[vi] http://www.importantcool.com/six-ways-the-guardian-is-wrong-about-ecuador-again/

[vii] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/27/the-right-to-protest-in-ecuador-is-absolutely-granted?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

[viii] http://www.reuters.com/article/oil-explorers-idUSL6N0PL2VD20140710

[ix] http://amazonwatch.org/news/2016/0121-ecuadorian-villagers-ask-un-to-block-chevron-from-attacking-human-rights-defenders

[x] http://lalineadefuego.info/2014/04/11/entrevista-a-humberto-cholango-dios-la-naturaleza-y-las-fuerzas-de-los-espiritus-de-los-lideres-van-a-proteger-para-que-la-conaie-no-caiga-en-manos-de-la-derecha/

[xi] https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/60984

[xii] http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/why-there-is-a-progressive-case-to-drill-baby-drill-in-ecuador/

[xiii] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/Ecuadors-Citizens-Revolution-Transformed-a-Nation–20150113-0022.html

[xiv] http://amazonwatch.org/news/2013/0816-ecuador-president-pulls-plug-on-innovative-yasuni-itt-initiative

[xv] http://amazonwatch.org/news/2015/0819-ecuadorian-government-violates-human-rights-and-the-constitution

[xvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKcZnH0-zAo

[xvii] http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Amazon_Watch

1[xviii] http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/category/non-profit-industrial-complex-organizations/organizations/amazon-watch/

[xix] http://monthlyreview.org/2015/09/01/dangerous-circumstances/,

 

 

One Comment

  • Adam Zuckerman on Feb 24, 2016

    Stansfield Smith’s personal attack against me is as misleading, erroneous and poorly researched as his hit piece on my employer, Amazon Watch, to which we replied here. Mr. Smith, who is the co-administrator of a Facebook group called “Friends of Ecuador–North America” –which serves as the home base for Smith’s ramblings–does not seem to have any interest in objectivity. His most recent attack is a mess of insinuations and conspiracy theories so convoluted that they would put a logic professor in a tizzy, so I will address his attacks one-by-one:

    Business Insider takes its disinformation story from another March 2013 Guardian article titled, “Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms” an article which provides no evidence to support its title. This Guardian article also mostly relies on Zuckerman of Amazon Watch…Both articles never state Ecuador did actually sell Amazon rainforests to Chinese companies; they allege Ecuador “planned” to sell a third, though this “plan” is not corroborated by any evidence. Now almost three years later, no rainforest has yet to be sold to China, but the same concocted story is repeated.

    Contrary to Smith’s insinuation, being quoted in an article does not mean that you either wrote it nor agree with every word in it. And why does Smith say that the article relies mainly on me? I have one quote in the article, which also quotes an indigenous leader and a letter from the seven indigenous nationalities of the south central Ecuadorian Amazon, all of whom condemned the oil round threatening their territory. It also quotes Ecuador’s then-Minister of Hydrocarbons who was promoting the oil auction.

    And yes, the Ecuadorian government was in Beijing for a promotional road show and private meetings with Chinese government officials and oil company executives to try to auction off 20-year leases for oil drilling in millions of acres of the Amazon to Chinese oil companies. Before they deleted the website in the last week for their 11th Round Oil Auction (you can still see some information here), the Ecuadorian government publicized that then-Minister of Non Renewable Natural Resources Wilson Pastor and a “technical team from the Secretariat of Hydrocarbons” met with six different companies in Beijing, including Sinochem. As then-Minister of Non Renewable Natural Resources Wilson Pastor told a reporter from EFE, “The motive of our presence is to promote the 11th Oil Round, which we started this year in Colombia, the US, and France. We could not leave off China, which is our principal strategic ally in economic development.” Ultimately, the only company that signed a deal from the oil auction was Andes Petroleum, a conglomerate of Chinese state-owned CNPC and Sinopec. However, Amazon Watch did not single China out. In fact, the only road shows that we physically protested were not in Beijing but in Houston, Calgary, and Paris.

    This same story slamming Ecuador President Correa and China for forcibly displacing indigenous people and destroying the rainforest for the sake of oil profits reappeared in June-July 2015. This just happened to coincide with a rightwing (sic) protests in Ecuador against Correa, over his raising taxes on the rich.

    There is no mention in either the Business Insider story nor in the Guardian story of Correa “forcibly displacing indigenous people.” However, here is an article about indigenous and campesino communities in southern Ecuador denouncing government efforts to displace them to clear the way for more mining by Chinese mining company Ecuacorriente. In the Ecuadorian government’s “investment catalogue,” they are promoting a massive expansion of mining in indigenous territory in Ecuador.

    Furthermore, I never spoke with the reporter at Business Insider, let alone the bloggers who quoted the Business Insider article years later without my knowledge. Smith’s insinuation is that I’m somehow colluding with right wing protesters, which is both baseless and libelous. In fact, when I lived in Ecuador I attended a rally supporting President Correa that was a response to the attempted coup by the military and the police. Amazon Watch was a major supporter of Correa’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative. Our founder was an official Ambassador for the proposal and we worked closely with the government of Ecuador on technical components of the proposal itself, as well as promotion and fundraising.

    Smith’s piece proceeds to quote an “outrageous article” allegedly by Amazon Watch criticizing the response of the Ecuadorian government to Indigenous and civil society protests. But a simple reading of the “article” shows that it is a declaration from the indigenous Kichwa people of Sarayaku and not a statement from Amazon Watch. It begins with the following sentence: “The People of the Zenith, SARAYAKU, once again are present in solidarity with the call from distinct social sectors, the country’s indigenous communities and social movements to defend human dignity, nature and biodiversity against the devastating threat of oil exploitation in our lands.” They also sign it as the Kichwa People of Sarayaku and we note “English translation by Amazon Watch. Below is the original statement in Spanish.”

    Smith then goes on to repeat desperate attacks from his last piece, all of which we have already already debunked. Smith falsely accuses Amazon Watch of being “corporate-backed,” despite the facts that his own link disproves his point. He insinuates that we are in cahoots with the US government that supports the Trans Pacific Partnership despite the fact that for years we have opposed it very publicly, including in a 2010 letter to President Obama. Then he calls us “a leader in the struggle to make Chevron pay for its environmental crimes in Ecuador” before insinuating that we are working with Chevron on an “anti-Correa campaign [that] happens to coincide with the successes of Ecuador’s legal case against Chevron.” WHAT?! So we worked with our longest adversaries, a group that we’ve campaigned against for the last fourteen years and have nominated to the Corporate Hall of Shame multiple times, because we were upset that our campaign was too successful??!!

    Defending yourself from Stansfield Smith’s personal attacks is like arguing with Donald Trump; you can’t win because he has no respect for facts or reality. I have to return to work–helping to advance the rights of indigenous peoples and protect the Amazon. I encourage Mr. Smith to do the same.

    References:

    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Amazon-Watch-Campaign-Against-Ecuadors-Revolution-A-Reply-20160217-0030.html#.

    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#safe=off&q=ecuador+ronda+sur+pekin

    http://economia.terra.cl/ecuador-inicia-ronda-de-licitaciones-petroleras-en-pekin,f7a83f576df82410VgnCLD200000bbcceb0aRCRD.html

    http://fusion.net/story/262957/small-tribe-with-a-big-voice-vows-to-stop-chinese-oil-drilling-in-the-amazon/

    http://amazonwatch.org/news/2013/0301-to-paris-dont-let-ecuador-sell-you-the-amazon

    http://amazonwatch.org/news/2013/0417-coalition-confronts-ecuador-in-canada-over-amazon-oil-auction

    https://www.citizen.org/documents/Letter_to_Obama_on_Peru.pdf

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Amazon_Watch

    http://www.cre.com.ec/noticia/127338/minera-china-desaloja-a-comuneros-de-tundayme/

    https://issuu.com/sectoresestrategicos/docs/cata__logo_de_inversiones_de_los_se/1