July 12, 2005

Ecuador Indians protest Petrobras oil development

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - Indians and environmental
protesters marched through Ecuador's capital on Tuesday to
demand that Brazilian state oil firm Petrobras suspend
operations in an oil block located in one of the Andean
nation's most important Amazon national parks.

More than 150 members of the Huaorani tribe joined
representatives from other indigenous and ecological groups in
Quito to press Petrobras to stop activity they said was
damaging the Yasuni National Park's fragile ecosystem.

"We are saying Petrobras should leave, because Yasuni is
the future of our children," said Alicia Ehuenguime Enqueri,
vice president of the National Huaorani Organization of

The Huaorani tribe, which has little contact with western
culture, lives in part of the park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve
that covers 982,000 hectares (2.4 million acres) and is home to
90 species of frogs and toads and more than 500 kinds of birds.

Petrobras last year was awarded an environmental license to
build oil drilling infrastructure for Block 31, an area that
shares land in Yasuni.

The permit allows Petrobras to build a highway, dock, and
bridge on 200 hectares (490 acres) of Yasuni land.

Petrobras officials were not immediately available for
comment, but the company has said it is using the most modern
technology to avoid damaging the park.

The Brazilian company has insisted that the project, in
which Japanese firm Teikoku is also partnered, will only affect
100 hectares (247 acres) of the Yasuni reserve, which borders

Petrobras Energia Ecuador, part of Petrobras' Argentine
unit, expects to begin pumping oil from the field next year.
Crude oil is Ecuador's biggest export and a key source of
government revenue.