In Ecuador, Oil Boom Creates Tension

From The Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

An oil pipeline runs through this village to a Chinese rig at the end of the road. At night, when the rig is pumping, the pipeline is too hot to touch, but villagers say that in the morning, it’s a good place to dry laundry.

That is its only apparent benefit to the families here, members of the Waorani tribe, lured out of the jungle by missionaries more than a generation ago. Its members live in plank-board shacks with no running water, amid the noise and dust of the fuel trucks, road crews and oil workers.

“All of this used to be our territory,” said Venancio Nihua, the son of a Waorani hunter, trying to support his seven children by raising chickens. “We don’t want the oil companies to come any farther.”

An unprecedented drilling push by Ecuador’s government has brought new tensions to Yawepare and the country’s Amazon lowlands. As the chain saws and bulldozers cut deeper into the forest, critics say the government is triggering brutal warfare between the Waorani and a smaller, breakaway tribe living in “voluntary isolation” beyond the oil frontier.

Ecuador, an OPEC member, pumps more than 500,000 barrels of crude a day, but with production falling, the country is moving to drill inside one of the world’s most ecologically complex and fragile places, Yasuni National Park, an area that is also home to the tribes. The government says it needs the money to pull the country out of poverty and provide education, housing and electricity to the Waorani and other forest inhabitants who have been living on the sidelines of the oil rush for too long.

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