Ecuador Shuts Down Environmental NGO

Government Accuses Group of Involvement in Protests Against an Oil License Round.

Ecuador closed a nongovernment organization focusing on environmental issues recently after accusing it of interfering in political events.

Ecuador’s Interior Ministry said the NGO, known as Fundacion Pachamama, was “affecting the public peace.”

The government alleged that Fundacion Pachamama was involved in a disturbance last week against members of foreign diplomatic delegations during protests against a licensing round for oil properties. President Rafael Correa accused Pachamama and another group, Yasunidos, of attacking Chile’s ambassador in Ecuador, Juan Pablo Lira.

Pachamama officials deny the allegations.

“We are peaceful,” said Joke Baert, a Pachamama spokeswoman. “We defend human rights, and we have never promoted or supported violence. The government should carry out a deep investigation”.

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Mario Melo, a lawyer for Pachamama, said the NGO is analyzing the government’s decision as well as a response.

Yasunidos is an environmental group that is collecting signatures to ask for a referendum on development of the ITT oil block, located at Yasuni National Park, famous for its biodiversity. Yasunidos officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas will begin developing the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil block in 2014 and could start production in 2016.

In June, the Correa administration issued a decree that creates new procedures for NGOs to obtain legal status. The rules require international organizations to undergo a screening process to seek permission to work in Ecuador and grants powers to the government to oversee and dissolve NGOs.

Por Mercedes Alvaro | online.wsj.com

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