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ECUADOR
Protests over pipeline
LADB
3/11/2002
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The government declared a state of emergency on Feb. 22 in the northeastern province of Sucumbíos, on the Colombian border, and a day later in the neighboring province of Orellana. While the immediate justification was the breakdown of peace talks in Colombia, officials later admitted that troops had been deployed to quell protests against an oil pipeline set to run through fragile tropical forest and highland ecosystems (LP, July 16, 2001).

Two adults and two children were reported killed and scores injured. Residents have set up roadblocks, taken over oil wells and occupied an airport in the town of Coca and an airline office in Lago Agrio, the capital of Sucumbíos. Officials said the protests have shut down operations at 62 oil wells and a refinery, costing oil companies more than US$2.2 million.

Land clearing has already begun for the pipeline, which environmentalists say will hurt the country’s burgeoning ecotourism industry. The government of President Gustavo Noboa says the $1.1-billion pipeline is vital to Ecuador’s economy, because it will allow oil production, which has lagged in recent years, to double. Protesters are demanding that the government pressure the pipeline company, OCP Ltd., to provide $10 million for local development to compensate for social and environmental damage.

 


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