This is a photograph of a 420,000-gallon oil spill in Ecuador’s Amazonian region in June 2013:
Andrew Ross, writing at The Nation, asks,
Why Is Ecuador Selling Its Economic and Environmental Future to China?
The slick, oily underside of Correa’s “citizens’ revolution.” (emphasis added)
While large swaths of the Amazon Basin remain uncharted, the most telling maps depict the region carved into numbered oil blocks, some of them hundreds of square miles in area. The Pañacocha field, for example, sits in Block 12; the ITT oil reserve is located in Block 43; and Block 57 is where Suárez took me. The blocks are periodically auctioned off as concessions to oil companies, and more and more of them are marked as a Chinese claim or interest. The Chinese extraction sites are remote, but anyone traversing the Amazon waterways, as I did this past summer, will routinely pass boatfuls of Chinese oil workers. At this point, China exercises a near monopoly on Ecuador’s oil—up to 90 percent this year alone—and is fast becoming the dominant player in mining and mineral extraction.
Of course, Ecuador is hardly alone in its growing dependence on Beijing. China committed almost $100 billion in loans to Latin America between 2005 and 2013—$15 billion last year alone, while the World Bank lent a mere $5.2 billion. But many believe that the erosion of sovereignty has been sharper in Ecuador than elsewhere in the region. The terms of its loans from Beijing are not fully transparent, giving rise to the worst suspicions. A March 2014 Amazon Watch report alleged that Petrochina has the contractual right to seize assets from any oil companies operating in Ecuador if the nation does not pay back China in full. A more extreme version of this claim is that the terms of loans include a “sovereignty immunity waiver,” that permits China to seize Ecuador’s own assets if it defaults. One of the administration’s chief critics, Acción Ecológica director Alexandra Almeida, told me that “the agreements with the Chinese are unlike any other. Even with Chevron we knew what we were getting. No one knows that much about the Chinese loans.”
Ross views the situation from the left, saying things such as “On the face of it, Beijing is not as easy to demonize as the infamous Paris Club, which represents the interests of Northern creditors,” and “has no history of ecological debt to Latin America.” But Ross is not blind to the fact that
environmentalists, like the YASunidos, have become Correa’s number-one enemy, labeled by some of his ministers as “enemies of the state.” Recent shifts in the interpretation of the penal code have made it possible to criminalize dissidents as “terrorists,” and domestic repression is growing.
Read the whole thing.