Where you find yourself on the planet and where we are in the solar system determines your fate



Patricio Jipa - Shaman, Kichwa, Ecuador





According to many media reports, Kichwa villagers from Sani Isla have vowed to resist oil prospecting by the state-backed Petroamazonas oil exploration company.


The oil company PetroAmazonas is promising my Amazonian Kichwa community a new school, college, eco-lodge, grant funding for their children to go to university, money for healthcare, dentistry, jobs and a cash lump sum, in return for being able develop their land. Surely though, these bribes to modernize are contrary to conservation policies, designed to protect human life in its natural state. Clearly, the Kichwa are happier now and why would anyone want to pressures of modern life, with the financial slavery that that entails. For goodness sake leave these people alone. 


Patricio Jipa and his wife Mari Muench have a 14-month-old baby to protect. Patricio has embarked on the task of persuading the community as to the benefits on not ruining the tranquility of what they have – in order to preserve intact the 70,000 hectares of virgin rainforest here, its inhabitants, medicinal plants, flora and fauna.


Patricio says: "A vote by my people is imminent. We are going to go through the rainforest, house to house, to talk to the people to help them choose tourism and rainforest preservation over the offer from the oil firm."


"We have protected these lands with our hearts, soul and lives since before we can remember. In 2009, when I was president of the community, the entire community got together and wrote and signed a document that we hand-delivered to the oil company, staying that we would never give up Sani Isla lands for oil exploitation. This holds firm in indigenous law but they are here now, saying that a change to the Ecuadorian constitution has rendered the document we wrote as worthless – so now we are fair game. We have since found out that this is not true."


"My life changed in 2008 when I met my wife, the woman I had seen in a vision when I was 15. We married in 2010, not an easy path to take for either of us – I am an indigenous Amazonian shaman and community leader from Ecuador whose role is to honour, protect, serve, advise and heal the people, emotionally, physically and spiritually. She, a caring, outgoing entrepreneur from London with an interesting energy and a deep passion to help others – but destiny had spoken. Now, with our daughter we find ourselves in the middle of a fight to protect my ancestral lands, the virgin rainforests of Ecuador from oil exploitation."


"The modern world is advancing faster than we as a people can cope with, but we know that education is key and there is a need for money too. Life has changed. Even in the rainforest we now need money for schooling and to sustain ourselves to start projects such as an organic fruit farm."


"We built a lodge on the edge of a beautiful lagoon to bring in tourism, and it does, and we are grateful for everyone who has visited us. But financially it has struggled; my wife's life savings are keeping it going at the moment. It could work though – and we are hoping to attract more tourists from the UK and elsewhere."


"The oil companies have made great in-roads this time, they have found our people at an all-time low emotionally and financially, and have seized their chance. How can we help the community give up such wonderful opportunities?"


"In Quito we sit, making a plan and have asked our friends and family to help. Even my wife's 90-year-old mother has been on the phone to embassies asking for help. We ask every person we meet if they might know someone or have an idea. Lists are written in journals and on phones at patio tables, emails address passed on slips of paper, people have been wonderful."


"We are going to return to the community and meet with the main leaders to try to reason with them and to offer alternatives to what seems to be too tempting an offer from the oil companies – we want to help them choose self-sustainability and tourism and protecting the forest instead. Then by canoe, my wife and I, along with our baby, will go house to house attempting to reunite families who are disagreeing, ask what their dreams are and try to explain the pros and cons, so that when the vote comes soon, they feel able to vote 'no' with confidence and not 'yes' out of desperation and lack of hope."


"Why risk it? I asked my wife. She answered, how can we look our daughter in the eye in 20 years' time and see the community living when there are no trees, no fish in the rivers, our little house by the river gone, the lodge closed and a concrete jungle replacing the living one and say we did not try because we were afraid. I see her eyes fill with tears. As she says, we must. Right now, there is no one else."





The couple hope to dissuade indigenous Kichwa villagers from accepting the advances of PetroAmazonas


"The oil companies have made great in-roads this time. They have found our people at an all-time low emotionally and financially, and have seized their chance. How can we help the community give up such wonderful opportunities? They are offering what we need and want, but the cost is immeasurable for us and the rest of the world. We are isolated and fighting alone."


He is appealing for expertise, financial help and media coverage to protect the forest from the developers.


With huge financial opportunities for developers interested in extracting the area's resources, the stakes are high. Several years ago, Patricio was told that someone had been paid to kill him. As the most prominent opponents of potentially lucrative oil development in this extensive tract of land, the couple continue to face risks.


The NGO Global Witness has reported a growing trend of killings of environmental activists, particularly in the Amazon, where laws are poorly enforced.


The couple do not consider themselves activists, but they are at the frontline of efforts to leave the forest intact, having loaned the villagers money to keep the eco-lodge afloat and now campaigning against the oil exploration.


Muench – who married Patricio two years ago in a ceremony where she wore a head dress and an outfit made from tree bark – said the couple would take their 14-month-old child with them on their backs when they walk or canoe between homes that can be several kilometres apart and only accessible through forest paths or along creeks.


"It is frightening. I have been laying in bed wondering what we should do," she said. "But how can I look my daughter in the eye when she is older and tell her we were too afraid to fight for her and her land?"


Their situation mirrors what is happening to the wider resource-rich Yasuni region where the government has carved up much of the land into oil-exploration blocks. One area of about 200,000 hectares has been targeted for protection under a plan called the ITT Initiative, which the government has promised to leave intact if the international community provides compensation worth at least half of the $7.2bn oil reserves believed to lie beneath the surface.


Conserving the Sani Isla region is potentially cheaper but politically more difficult. Maintaining an eco-lodge and ensuring the community of 422 indigenous people have a decent school, jobs and university opportunities for their children would cost a fraction of the money sought by the ITT Initiative. They have fought off oil company advances and promises for many years, but without government support, it is hard to imagine the community will be able to resist the oil companies indefinitely.




QUITO – Canadian gold-mining company Kinross Gold Corp. (KGC, K.T) is awaiting government reforms in Ecuador to develop its Fruta del Norte project, which will require an investment of at least $1 billion to build the mine.

This investment will be used to build the mine and other production facilities for Fruta del Norte, said Maria Clara Herdoiza, the company's director of external affairs and corporate responsibility.

Fruta del Norte is the largest gold project in Ecuador, with proven and probable mineral reserves estimated at 6.7 million ounces of gold and 9.0 million ounces of silver. The company plans to invest $40 million this year in the project.

In December of 2011 Kinross and the government reached a non-binding agreement for the project. But the two parties have been negotiating since last year important changes for a final deal, following a request from the company.

Although negotiations have been tough and complex, Ms. Herdoiza said the company is optimistic that it will reach an agreement with the government in order to develop Fruta del Norte.

"We have made good progress on many issues. We have taken firm steps, but we are also awaiting reforms," said Ms. Herdoiza.

Offered reforms will include several topics, but the key point is related to the 70%-windfall tax on sales above a pre-negotiated base price.

"This is a key point not only for Kinross but also for all private companies operating or interested in Ecuador," said Ms. Herdoiza. "Our final agreement with the government will pave the way for the entire private sector."

Ecuador President Rafael Correa was reelected in February. He has said that during his new term, which will begin in May, his government will push for the development of large-scale mining projects.

Mr. Correa has offered to pass a reform to allow the windfall tax, which was created for the oil sector but is applicable for all non-renewable natural resources, be applied when investments are recovered.

Kinross and the government are negotiating the amount the company should pay as advanced royalties when the respective contracts are signed, as well as several economic and technical issues.

Since 2003 the company has invested about $300 million in the Andean country in several activities, including exploration works.

Santiago Yepez, president of the country's mining chamber, said Ecuador is looking for the opportunity to participate in Latin America's current mining boom.

"Without clear rules there won't be investments and the mining sector won't be developed," Mr. Yepez said.

Write to Mercedes Alvaro at


Dow Jones Newswires





Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador), which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator") is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland.

The main spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish (94% of the population). Languages of official use in native communities include Quichua, Shuar, and 11 other languages. Ecuador has an area of 258,238 km2 (99,706 sq mi). Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The country's largest city is Guayaquil. The historic center of Cuenca, the third largest city in the country in size and economically, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, for being an outstanding example of a planned inland Spanish style colonial city in the Americas. Ecuador is also home to a great variety of species, many of them endemic, like those of the Galápagos islands. This species diversity makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.

Ecuador is a presidential republic and became independent in 1830, after having been part of the Spanish colonial empire, and for a much shorter time of the republic of Gran Colombia. It is a medium-income country with an HDI score of 0.720 (2011).




Ecuador has a total area of 283,560 km2 (109,483 sq mi), including the Galápagos Islands. Of this, 276,840 km2 (106,889 sq mi) is land and 6,720 km2 (2,595 sq mi) water. Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America.

Ecuador lies between latitudes 2°N and 5°S, Ecuador is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and has 2,337 km of coastline. It has 2010 km of land boundaries, with Colombia in the north (590 km border) and Peru in the east and south (1,420 km border).

The country has three main geographic regions, plus an insular region in the Pacific Ocean:

La Costa, or the coast, comprises the low-lying land in the western part of the country, including the Pacific coastline.

La Sierra, ("the highlands") is the high-altitude belt running north-south along the centre of the country, its mountainous terrain dominated by the Andes mountain range.

La Amazonía, also known as El Oriente ("the east"), comprises the Amazon rainforest areas in the eastern part of the country, accounting for just under half of the country's total surface area, though populated by less than 5% of the population.

The Región Insular is the region comprising the Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.

Ecuador's capital is Quito, which is in the province of Pichincha in the Sierra region. Its largest city is Guayaquil, in the Guayas Province. Cotopaxi, which is just south of Quito, features one of the world's highest active volcanoes. The top of Mount Chimborazo (6,268 m above sea level) is considered to be the most distant point of the earth's surface from the center of the earth, given the approximately ellipsoid shape of the planet.


There is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. It is mild year-round in the mountain valleys; humid subtropical climate in coastal areas and rainforest in lowlands. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate, with a severe rainy season. The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry; and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rain forest zones.
Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year. Both sunrise and sunset occur each day at the two six o'clock hours.


The Andes is the watershed divisor between the Amazon watershed, which runs to the east, and the Pacific, including north-south rivers: Mataje, Santiago, Esmeraldas, Chone, Guayas, Jubones and Puyango-Tumbes.

Almost all of the rivers in Ecuador form in the Highland region and flow east toward the Amazon River or west toward the Pacific Ocean. The rivers rise from snowmelt at the edges of the snowcapped peaks or from the abundant precipitation that falls at higher elevations. In the Sierra region, the streams and rivers are narrow and flow rapidly over precipitous slopes. Rivers may slow and widen as they cross the hoyas yet become rapid again as they flow from the heights of the Andes to the lower elevations of the other regions. The highland rivers broaden as they enter the more level areas of the Coast and the Orient.

In the Coastal region, the External Coast has mostly intermittent rivers that are fed by constant rains from December through May and become empty riverbeds during the dry season. The few exceptions are the longer, perennial rivers that flow throughout the External Coast from the Internal Coast and the Highland on their way to the Pacific Ocean. The Internal Coast, by contrast, is crossed by perennial rivers that may flood during the rainy season, sometimes forming swamps.

Major rivers in the Oriente include the Pastaza, Napo, and Putumayo. The Pastaza is formed by the confluence of the Chambo and the Patate rivers, both of which rise in the Sierra. The Pastaza includes the Agoyan waterfall, which at sixty-one meters is the highest waterfall in Ecuador. The Napo rises near Mount Cotopaxi and is the major river used for transport in the Eastern lowlands. The Napo ranges in width from 500 to 1,800 meters. In its upper reaches, the Napo flows rapidly until the confluence with one of its major tributaries, the Coca River, where it slows and levels off. The Putumayo forms part of the border with Colombia. All of these rivers flow into the Amazon River. The Galápagos Islands have no significant rivers. Several of the larger islands, however, have freshwater springs, and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.


Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world according to Conservation International, and it has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation. In addition to the mainland, Ecuador owns the Galápagos Islands, for which the country is best known.

Ecuador has 1,600 bird species (15% of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly. The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ecuador has the first constitution to recognize the rights of nature. The protection of the nation's biodiversity is an explicit national priority as stated in the National Plan of "Buen Vivir", or good living, objective 4, Guarantee the rights of nature, policy 1: "Sustainably conserve and manage the natural heritage including its land and marine biodiversity which is considered a strategic sector". As of the writing of that Plan in 2008, 19% of Ecuador's land area was in a protected area, however, the Plan also states that 32% of the land must be protected in order to truly preserve the nation's biodiversity. Current protected areas include 11 national parks, 10 wildlife refuges, 9 ecological reserves and other areas. A program begun in 2008, Sociobosque, is preserving another 2.3% of total landarea (629,475.5 hectares or 6,295 km²) by paying private landowners or community landowners (such as indigenous tribes) incentives to maintain their land as native ecosystems such as native forests or grasslands. Eligibility and subsidy rates for this program are determined based on the poverty in the region, the number of hectacres that will be protected, the type of ecosystem of the land to be protected among other factors.

Despite being on the UNESCO list, the Galápagos are endangered by a range of negative environmental effects, threatening the existence of this exotic ecosystem. Additionally, oil exploitation of the Amazon rain forest has led to the release of billions of gallons of untreated wastes, gas, and crude oil into the environment, contaminating ecosystems and causing detrimental health effects to indigenous peoples.


Ecuador's economy is the eighth largest in Latin America and experienced an average growth of 4.6% between 2000 and 2006. In January 2009, the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE) put the 2010 growth forecast at 6.88%. During the global crisis Ecuador's economy was able to maintain positive, though small, growth. In 2011 its GDP grew at 7.8 percent and was the third highest in Latin America, behind Argentina (2nd) and Panama (1st).

Between 1999 and 2007, GDP doubled reaching 65,490 million dollars according to BCE. Inflation rate up to January 2008 was located about 1.14%, the highest recorded in the last year, according to Government. The monthly unemployment rate remained at about 6 and 8 percent from December 2007 until September 2008, however, it went up to about 9 percent in October and dropped again in November 2008 to 8 percent. In the middle of the global economic recession, the unemployment mean annual rate for 2009 was of 8.5 percent. From then the unemployment rates started a downward trend: 7.6 percent in 2010, 6.0 percent in 2011, and 4.8 percent in 2012.

The extreme poverty rate has declined significantly between 1999 and 2010. In 2001 it was estimated at 40% of the population, while by 2011 the figure dropped to 17.4% of the total population. This is explained largely by emigration and economic stability achieved after adopting the U.S dollar as official means of transaction .

Oil accounts for 40% of exports and contributes to maintaining a positive trade balance. Since the late 1960s, the exploitation of oil increased production and proven reserves are estimated at 6.51 billion barrels as of 2011.

The overall trade balance for August 2012 was a surplus of almost 390 million dollars for the first six months of 2012, a huge figure compared with that of 2007, which reached only $ 5.7 million; the surplus had risen by about 425 million compared to 2006. This circumstance was due to the fact that imports grew faster than exports. The oil trade balance positive had revenues of $ 3.295 million in 2008, while non-oil was negative amounting to 2.842 million dollars. The trade balance with the United States, Chile, the European Union, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil and Mexico is positive. The trade balance with Argentina, Colombia and Asia is negative.

In the agricultural sector, Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas (first place worldwide in production and export), flowers, and the eighth largest producer of cocoa. It is also significant the shrimp production, sugar cane, rice, cotton, corn, palm and coffee. The country´s vast resources include large amounts of timber across the country, like eucalyptus and mangroves. Pines and cedars are planted in the region of the Sierra, walnuts and rosemary, and balsa wood, on Guayas River Basin. The industry is concentrated mainly in Guayaquil, the largest industrial center, and in Quito where in recent years the industry has grown considerably, this city is also the largest business center of the country. Industrial production is directed primarily to domestic market. Despite this, there is limited export of products produced or processed industrially.[citation needed] These include canned foods, liquor, jewelry, furniture and more. A minor industrial activity is also concentrated in Cuenca.

Ecuador has negotiated bilateral treaties with other countries, besides belonging to the Andean Community of Nations, and an associate member of Mercosur. It also serves on the World Trade Organization (WTO), in addition to the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) and other multilateral agencies. In April 2007, Ecuador paid off its debt to the IMF thus ending an era of interventionism of the Agency in the country. The public finance of Ecuador consists of the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE), the National Development Bank (BNF), the State Bank, the National Finance Corporation, the Ecuadorian Housing Bank (BEV) and the Ecuadorian Educational Loans and Grants.

Between 2006 and 2009, the government increased social spending, on social welfare, and education from 2.6% to 5.2% of its GDP. Starting in 2007 with an economy surpassed by the economic crisis, Ecuador was subject to a number of economic policy reforms by Government that have helped steer the Ecuadorian economy to a sustained, substantial, and focused to achieve financial stability and social policy. Such policies were expansionary fiscal policies, of access to housing finance, stimulus packs, and limiting the amount of money reserves banks could keep abroad. Ecuadorian government has made huge investments in education and infrastructure throughout the nation, which have improved the lives of the poor.

In 2000 Ecuador changed its currency from the sucre to the US dollar following a banking crisis.

On 12 December 2008 president Correa announced that Ecuador would not pay $30.6m in interest to lenders of a $510m loan, claiming that they were monsters. In addition it claimed that $3.8bn in foreign debt negotiated by previous administrations was illegitimate because it was authorised without executive decree. At the time of the announcement, the country had $5.65bn in cash reserves.




The rehabilitation and reopening of the Ecuadorian railroad, and use of it as a tourist attraction is one of the recent developments in transportation matter. The roads of Ecuador in recent years have undergone important improvement. The major routes are Pan American (under enhacement from 4 to 6 lanes from Rumichaca to Ambato, the conclusion of 4 lanes on the entire stretch of Ambato and Riobamba and running via Riobamba to Loja). In the absence of the section between Loja and the border with Peru, the Route Espondilus and / or Ruta del Sol (oriented to travel throughout the Ecuadorian coastline.), the backbone Amazon (which crosses from north to south along the Ecuadorian Amazon, linking most and more major cities of it); Another major project is developing the road Manta – Tena, the highway Guayaquil – Salinas Highway Aloag Santo Domingo, Riobamba – Macas (which crosses Sangay National Park). Other new developments include the ¨National Unity¨ bridge complex in Guayaquil, the bridge over the Napo river in Francisco de Orellana, the Esmeraldas River Bridge in the city of the same name, and perhaps the most remarkable of all, the ¨Bahia – San Vincente Bridge¨, being the largest in the Latin American Pacific coast. The international airports of Quito and Guayaquil have experienced a high increase in demand and have required modernization. In the case of Guayaquil it involved a new air terminal, once considered the best in South America and the best in Latin America, and in Quito where an entire new airport is being built in Tababela, and was inaugurated by February 2013, with Canadian assistance. However, the main road leading from the Quito city centre to the new airport will only be finished in 2014, making current travelling from the airport to downtown Quito as long as 2 hours during rush hour.


The Ecuadorian Constitution requires that all children attend school until they achieve a "basic level of education", which is estimated at nine school years. In 1996, the net primary enrollment rate was 96.9%, and 71.8% of children stayed in school until the fifth grade. The cost of primary and secondary education is borne by the government, but families often face significant additional expenses such as fees and transportation costs.

Provision of public schools falls far below the levels needed, and class sizes are often very large, and families of limited means often find it necessary to pay for education. In rural areas, only 10% of the children go on to high school. The Ministry of Education states that the mean number of years completed is 6.7.

Ecuador has 61 universities, many of which still confer terminal degrees according to the traditional Spanish education system, honoring a long tradition of having some of the oldest universities in the Americas: University of San Fulgencio founded in 1586 by the Augustines, San Gregorio Magno University founded in 1651 by the Jesuits, and University of Santo Tomas of Aquino, founded in 1681 by the Dominican order.

Among the traditional conferred terminal degrees can be noted the Doctorate for medicine and law schools; Engineer, Physicist, Chemist, or Mathematician for polytechnic or technology institutes. These terminal degrees, as in the case of the PhD in other countries, were the main requirement for an individual to be accepted in academia as a professor or researcher. In the professional realm, a terminal degree granted by an accredited institution provided automatically a professional license to the individual.

However, in 2004 the National Council of Higher Education (CONESUP), started the reorganization of all the degree-granting schemes of the accredited universities in order to pair them with foreign counterparts. The new structure of some careers caused the dropping of subjects, credits or even the name of the previously conferred diplomas. The terminal degree in law, previously known as JD Juris Doctor (Doctor en Jurisprudencia) was replaced by the one of attorney (Abogado) with the exception of the modification of the number of credits to equate it to an undergraduate degree. In the same fashion for Med School, the required time of education was considerably reduced from 9 years (the minimum needed to obtain the title of MD Doctor in Medicine and Surgery) to almost five, with the provision that the diploma is not terminal anymore and it is given with the title of Medic (Medico). Therefore, an MD or PhD in medicine is only to be obtained overseas until the universities adjust themselves to granting schemes and curriculum as in foreign counterparts. Nonetheless, a "medico" can start a career as family practitioner or general medicine physician.

This new reorganization, although very ambitious, lacked the proper path to the homologation of diplomas for highly educated professionals graduated in the country or even for the ones graduated in foreign institutions. One of the points of conflict was the imposition of obtaining foreign degrees to current academicians. As today, a master degree is as a requirement to keep an academic position and at least a foreign PhD to attain or retain the status of Rector (President of a university) or Decano (Dean). For Ecuadorian researchers and many academicians trained in the country, these regulations sounded illogical, disappointing, and unlawful since it appeared a question of a title name conflict rather than specialization or science advancement.

A debate to modify this and other reforms, specially the one which granted control of the Higher Education System by the government, was practically passed with consensus by the multi-partisan National Assembly on August 4, 2010 but vetoed by the president Rafael Correa, who wanted to keep the law strictly as it was originally redacted by his political party and SENPLADES (National Secretary of Planning and Development). Due to this change, there are many highly educated professionals and academicians under the old structure but estimated that only 87% of the faculty in public universities have already obtained a master's degree and fewer than 5% have PhD (although many of them have already Ecuadorian granted Doctorate degrees).

About 300 institutes of higher education offer two to three years of post-secondary vocational or technical training.







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