Ecuador - August 2023
Ecuadorians vote to end oil drilling in Amazon national park
In a referendum held on 20 August, over 58 per cent of voters chose to stop oil extraction in the Yasuni National Park, a UN protected biosphere located in the Amazon. In a second referendum, Ecuadorians also voted to ban all extraction activities in the Choco Andino tropical rainforest, near Quito, with around 68 per cent of support.
Efforts to contain oil production in the Amazon had been spearheaded by Indigenous Peoples and environmental activists, many of them young people, for years. Officials across several administrations and the state’s oil company, Petroecuador, had argued that an end to oil development in Yasuni, would lead to austerity measures with a negative impact on the economy. Petroecuador will have to dismantle its oil processing facilities and provide for reparations.
According to Human Rights Watch, the vote on the Yasuni is the first time a referendum had resulted in a ban on new and pre-existing fossil fuel exploration. Turnout for this referendum neared 83 per cent. Notably, the decision will benefit the Taromenane, Tagaeri and Dugakaeri peoples, who choose to live in isolation in the region, as the drilling activities impacted the quality of their water and resources. Environmental activists have organized to demand the government’s compliance with the referendum as, following the results, officials, including incumbent president Lasso, as well as the candidate currently leading in polls to succeed him, have expressed reservations about the government’s ability to implement the results in the given timeline.
Following a first-round election held in a climate of political violence, Ecuador is set for a presidential run-off
Luisa Gonzalez, leftist candidate, and Daniel Noboa, considered a pro-business candidate, will face each other in a run-off election on 15 October after leading in the first round that took place in August. Gonzalez, who is considered close to former President Rafael Correa, is currently leading over Noboa with around 33 per cent of support, while the latter attained around 24 per cent of votes.
The election took place amid a climate of political violence, including the killing of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, just days before the election, as well as the killing of the leader of the party Revolucion Ciudadana, an assassination attempt against a mayor, and the killing of another mayor in July. Despite this climate of violence, voter turnout was around 82 per cent (voting is mandatory for most Ecuadorians).
As the presidential election was triggered after incumbent Guillermo Lasso invoked a constitutional provision that resulted in a call for elections, whoever wins in the run-off will govern for the remainder of Lasso’s original term. Christian Zurita, who replaced Fernando Villavicencio after he was killed at the end of a political rally, came in third.
Fernando Villavicencio, presidential candidate, is killed in armed attack after political rally
Fernando Villavicencio, presidential candidate for the Movimiento Construye party, was killed following a rally with supporters on 9 August. Villavicencio had denounced the presence of Mexican cartels in Ecuador and had stated he had been threatened by them during his campaign. Villavicencio’s anti-corruption platform promoted hard on crime policies, including through the participation of the military, as well as a social agenda to improve social welfare. Following the assassination, President Guillermo Lasso announced a “state of exception” for 60 days, in order to ensure safety in the days leading to election day.
Note: This report was originally published in August as a Breaking Update.