After marching with Leonardo DiCaprio in the Peoples’ Climate March on Saturday in Washington DC, Amazonian leaders headed to the United Nations on Monday to denounce that the Chinese oil company Andes Petroleum will cause genocide against the Sapara Nation and uncontacted indigenous peoples if it drills in their ancestral territory in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
“Andes Petroleum is posed to commit genocide against the Sapara People and the uncontacted peoples who are our neighbors.” declared Manari Ushigua, President of the Sapara Nation. “Andes Petroleum must cancel the contract immediately and Ecuador must desist from any other form of resources extraction because it threatens our survival.”
“Andes Petroleum will have the blood of my people on their hands if it does not stay out of my sacred rainforest,” said Gloria Ushigua, President of the Sapara Women’s Association Ashiñwaka. Ms. Ushigua has received so many death threats for defending the Amazon from oil drilling that she recently threw away her cell phone.
Interview with Manari Ushigua on the Rights of Nature
The culture of the approximately 565 members of the Sapara Nation was recognized by UNESCO as Heritage of Humanity in 2001, and by international and national law Ecuador is supposed to take special measures to protect the Sapara. However, in January of 2016, Ecuador signed contracts with Andes Petroleum, a consortium of the Chinese companies National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), for oil exploration and exploitation in Blocks 79 and 83, which cover almost the entirety of Sapara territory, one of the most biodiverse places in the world.
“Our prophecies foretold that the day would come when foreigners would try to invade our territory and we would have to resist or be wiped out,” explained Manari Ushigua, a shaman as well as a leader. “If the Chinese oil company Andes Petroleum drills on Sapara land, two great spirits will clash: the Chinese dragon and our Piatsaw. We must succeed in keeping the oil in the ground, and help people learn how to heal Mother Earth.”
The Sapara’s concerns are not unfounded. Oil exploitation and pollution have already caused genocide in Ecuador. Texaco’s operations in Ecuador’s Northern Amazon caused grave destruction of the environment and the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. According to Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, in Chevron and Cultural Genocide, “Two nomadic groups that once inhabited the region, the Tetetes and Sansahuari, have been wiped out.”
“The United Nations was created to avoid wars and genocide. We hope the UN acts fast to avoid the disappearance of our People and our uncontacted neighbors. The UN needs to do its job,” emphasized Mr. Ushigua. “Many international and national laws are being violated including the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, Convention 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
A peaceful vigil was held outside the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations this morning at 9:30am after which the Sapara leaders delivered a letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi demanding that Andes Petroleum cancel the contract to explore and drill oil in Sapara territory immediately.