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The A’i Cofán people of Ecuador’s eastern Sucumbios province in the community of Dureno are facing a threat by the state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador. Their land is bordered on the north by the Aguarico River and lies near the oil boom-town of Lago Agrio on Ecuador’s Amazonian frontier. The Cofan are hedged in on all sides by active oil concessions. Their home is the last island of pristine, primary rainforest within miles. Now, PetroEcuador plans to open twelve kilometers of road into their territory from the west, cutting a path up to 60 meters wide to make way for pipelines, electrical cables, and heavy machinery in order to construct and operate three oil platforms and thirty wells right in the heart of their forest.
The company began work on the road in January of 2022, but the A’i Cofán were not properly consulted beforehand. When the people realized what was happening, PetroEcuador had already cleared several kilometers of road. The community organized a group of about 130 members to serve as a territorial guard. Armed with wooden spears, they demanded that the company cease operations and remove their equipment. So far, they have managed to keep the company from resuming its advance.
Since the massive nationwide strike in June 2022, which paralyzed the country for 18 days, about seven families of A’i Cofán have been maintaining a permanent presence to blockade the access road and keep the company out. However, groups of armed forces have come on several occasions to intimidate them and attempt to forcefully remove them in order to let the company enter.
The families in resistance are away from their homes, living in makeshift shelters covered with plastic tarps. They need funds to purchase food, supplies, and materials to improve their shelters and allow them to remain in place until PetroEcuador gives up its plans to drill for oil on their land.
Your help can make a big difference! One U.S. dollar can buy a lot more in Ecuador than it can in the States. The organizers estimate $1,000 is needed per month to sustain the families in resistance. If we raise more, that money will go toward promoting their cause through meetings with government officials and the media (covering transportation costs), and can also help to pay legal fees as the Cofán take their case to court.
Please give what you can, and share this page! Thank you.
(I’m an environmental activist who first traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon in 2003. I recently spent several days with the Cofán and visited the site where they are blocking the oil company from entering their territory.)