MAC/20: Mines and Communities

ECUADOR

Published by MAC on 2007-03-15

ECUADOR

Correa warns about a "civil war" between communities and mining companies

Quito, 17 March 2007 (EFE) - Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, warned today that a kind of "civil war" could take place between communities in mining areas and the corporations that exploit the mineral deposits.

Correa, in his usual Saturday radio program, announced that in the next few days he will issue a "national mobilization" decree for the armed forces in order to confront the "extremely grave" mining problem, as well as to combat the fuel contraband.

"The mining problem is extremely grave, and we have areas where we are on the verge of a civil war", Correa remarked, after acknowledging that some grave confrontations have taken place between locals and mining companies.

There are more than 3,700 mining concessions in Ecuador.

"The whole country has been concessioned", and in some areas, the Mayors "have to ask the mining companies for permission to build sewer systems. It's absurd", said Correa.

He said that the conflict originates in a law approved in 1990, which motivated the creation of mining concessions, but he pointed out that during the last 16 years the concessions have given the State only 22 million dollars.

"We have not received any benefits from this (mining); neither the State nor the people, and that will have to be taken down", the president said, and indicated that the Constitutional Assembly, which his government is promoting, should change the mining laws.

He reiterated that his administration will create the "Ministry of Mines", after pointing out that the law that promotes mining concessions was done with a World Bank loan, which will be revised by his government, and believes that the loan is part of an "illegitimate debt".

Correa also said that the public forces mobilization decree will also attempt to stop the fuel contraband to bordering countries, like Colombia and Peru, and even Panama.

He stated that between 2004 and 2005, during the government of ex-president Lucio Gutiérrez, a fuel contraband crisis took place, because during that period the importation of gasoline "went up 40% by volume, at a time the economy only grew three percent"

"It's perverse", Correa affirmed, and said that "it's clear" that the increase in fuel importation was not to satisfy the internal demand, "but rather, for contraband".

Correa indicated that the mobilization decree will attempt to prevent Mafioso groups from shipping the State subsidized fuel to sell as contraband in countries like Peru and Panama, where the price of gasoline is much higher than Ecuador's.

"We are not going to tolerate this any more", Correa noted, while at the same time asserting that it's estimated that the fuel contraband costs the country between 300 and 500 million dollars a year.

He recalled that the fuel contraband problem was recently analyzed by the National Security Council, and said that there is a "coordinated plan" between the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the national company, Petroecuador, and the armed forces, which aims to "capture" the contrabandists.

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