Three Die in Protests Against Canadian Oil Company Project in South America

Carl Desjardins, Tuesday, March 12, 2002 - 17:03

Keith Stewart

(Toronto) Today, Canadian environmentalists called on the Alberta Energy Company to halt construction of their controversial pipeline in Ecuador following the death of several protestors, including children.

"People should not be killed to protect oil company profits" said Keith Stewart, climate change campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance and personal friend of some of the some of the environmentalists under attack in Ecuador. "We are calling on the Alberta Energy Company to withdraw from this project before more people are killed or wounded."

Local newspapers report that three children have died by asphyxiation from tear gas and dozens are wounded after demonstrators erected roadblocks and occupied over 60 oil wells and five refineries - halting all construction on the pipeline and bringing oil production to a near standstill. The blockades were part of a general strike called by workers, residents, and local government leaders in two Amazonian provinces.

Ecuadorean President Gustavo Noboa, who has warned that he will "bring war" to anyone in the way of the pipeline and fight them "trench by trench," initially declared a state of emergency for both provinces-- suspending basic civil rights and giving maximum power to the military to break up the demonstrations. The state of emergency was lifted March 5, but tensions remain high.

The Alberta Energy Company is the largest shareholder in proposed 450,000 barrel-per-day oil pipeline would double oil production in the ecologically-sensitive Amazon basin and result in new encroachments upon indigenous lands and ecological reserves, as well as more contamination of water and air in the region. Once pristine rainforest, Sucumbios and Orellana are now the largest oil producing provinces in the country, but they have not benefitted from the oil revenues. Communities surrounding oil operations have the highest rates of cancer in the country due to three decades of chronic contamination of their rivers, ground water, soil, and air, while larger towns still lack basic health services and infrastructure such as sanitation and potable water.

In July 2001, the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Greenpeace Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation called on Alberta Energy to withdraw from the project, but the company has yet to respond to their letter.

For more information:

Keith Stewart, tel. (416) 596-0660

Keith Stewart, Ph.D.
Smog and Climate Change Coordinator
Toronto Environmental Alliance
30 Duncan St., Suite 201
Toronto, Ontario M5V-2C3
tel. 416-596-0660
fax 416-596-0345

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