(All links are in Spanish, otherwise noted as [en] for English)
On April 11th, 2014, the National Electoral Council of Ecuador (CNE by its Spanish name) was presented with 757,923 signatures by the YASunidos [YASunited] collective in order to hold a popular consult against the exploitation of the subterranean oil in Yasuni National Park's ITT Block (Ishpingo, Tiputini, Tampococha).
We interviewed YASunidos memeber, Mayah Cueva, in regards to the situation.
Global Voices: How and why was the YASunidos collective formed?
Mayah Cueva Franco: The YASunidos collective was formed as an activist, nonpartisan group against the oil exploitation in Yasuni National Park's ITT block. It was created in response to president Rafael Correa's announcement to end the initiative's search for international support that would stop the exploitation in this part of the Ecuadorian Amazon. On October 3rd, 2013, the National Assembly approved 108 out of 133 towards the exploitation of the ITT fields. 25 legislators voted against it.
GV: What motivates YASunidos to propel the popular consult?
MCF: President Rafael Correa has manifested that the Yasuni National Park [en] oil exploitation is imminent as “poverty has to be overcome.” We the activists have gotten together in order to defend this emblematic place of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Alternative plans have also been offered to stop the extraction of this natural reserve known as Plan C, “Wealth redistribution to avoid exploitation in Yasuni“. This popular consult looks for the approval to hold a debate with the entire Ecuadorian community, free information, and the indigenous communities’ initial consult, as they are the ones who inhabit this area.
GV: Where is the Yasuni National Park located?
MCF: Yasuni National Park is located in the Orellana and Pastaza provinces and the ITT fields (Ishpingo, Tiputini, Tampococha). It is surrounded by oil fields that continue to push the indigenous population into voluntary isolation. All of this provokes conflict, each time more frequently, amongst the settlers and the oil companies in the area.
GV: Does YASunidos have any political connections
MCF: As spokespersons for YASunidos, we have manifested that we are not linked to any political party. However, we don't reject citizen participation, independent of their ideology or if they participate in any party. We have denied entering into a state of confrontation with the head of state and we categorically reject their statements.
GV: What is YASunidos's position regarding the signature verification?;
MCF: Honestly, we are doubtful and have little certainty regarding the signature verification carried out by CNE seeing as how reliable evidence exists showing the lack of transparency. On April 25th, Judith Naranjo, a judge specialized in Childhood, Adolescence and Family, denied YASunidos representative, Luis Corral's, petition for precautionary measures. Corral was looking to suspend CNE's signature verification due to assumed irregularities that may have been held during its chain of custody, as can be seen in this video.
We point out that the procedure was performed without any clear or official protocol, the verifications were being done until the late hours of the night, and there was an absence of YASunidos supervisors.
GV: What's the current situation of the signature verification?
MCF: After the indexation period of collected signatures, the CNE plenary session anticipates to reunite in order to analyze the technical and legal reports, even though the organization's president, Domingo Paredes, went ahead stating that YASunidos obtained 359,761 valid signatures out of 583,324 needed for a popular consult.
The collective intends to contest the nulled signatures. It is unconstitutional to dispose or null the will of the masses due to mere regulatory formalities. The law in force is the Ecuadorian Constitution.
GV: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MCF: The collective has inaugurated the #DefiendeTuFirma [Defend Your Signature] campaign onto its Twitter account, @Yasunidos. A call has also been made for international solidarity by means of a petition in a letter supporting YASunidos. There too is a request for a popular consult presented to the CNE, an opportunity to request that they respect our right to have one.