A new push to drill for oil in Ecuador could devastate a pristine jungle habitat and the Indians who live there.
The 3,793-square-mile Yasuni National Park contains more plant and animal species than all of North America. It sits atop nearly 900 million barrels of oil. It’s also the ancestral home to the Huaorani Indians, who have lived off the land for more than 1,000 years.
The Ecuadorean government in 2007 had offered to ban drilling in the ecologically fragile Yasuni park in exchange for $3.5 billion in contributions from the international community.
Donations fell short and the government dropped the plan.
Even before that failure was announced in 2013, documents show that the Ecuadorean government had been secretly negotiating with the Chinese to allow drilling in the Yasuni park.
Ecuador has borrowed more than $9 billion from China since 2007. The South American country plans to export oil to China to help pay off its huge debt.
Environmentalists and Indian rights activists are alarmed.
"We're on the cusp of a new oil boom in the Ecuadorian Amazon the like of which we have never seen before," Amazon Watch told the Guardian newspaper in February.
The Ecuadorean government says the oil drilling platforms will cause little damage.
I want to travel to Ecuador to learn more about the impact of drilling on the Yasuni and Indians who live in the region.
I am particularly interested in the Huaorani Indians. They drew international attention in 1956 when they killed five American missionaries.
Hundreds of Huaorani still resist contact with outsiders. As oil workers, colonists and others move closer to their territory, tensions are rising - and so is intertribal warfare.
At least two dozen Indians have been killed over the past two years.
If this project is funded, I would like to travel to Ecuador during the summer of 2014. Among the questions I’ll pursue:
Whether Huaorani Indians are abandoning their traditional ways as oil workers, loggers and colonists grow near;
Whether oil drilling is harming the Yasuni National Park and surrounding area.
Whether the oil boom and other outside pressures led to intertribal attacks that have killed more than 20 people, most of them women and children;
How the courts are treating Indians arrested in the attacks.
Note: This is the 960x540 version of video.