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Andes Petroleum Oil Proposal in Sápara Indigenous Territory in Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador

Gloria Ushigua fought against Andes Petroleum's plans for oil exploration in Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rainforest. After delaying the project for years, the company withdrew in 2019.


The Amazon rainforest along the borders of Ecuador and Peru is the most biodiverse region in the world, yet ever since oil was discovered in the area leading to booms in the 70s and again in the early 2000s, fossil fuel extractivism has led to serious deforestation, extreme weather patterns such as droughts and floods, soil erosion, dust storms, and mass carbon store release [11]. The rainforest is also home to several indigenous tribes, one of which is the Sápara, whose territory is within the Yasuní National Park between the Napo and Pastaza rivers. The Yasuní National Park is also where (notably Chinese) crude oil exploitation occurs in the Ishpino-Tambococha-Tiputini [ITT] oil field. On November 28, 2013, Chinese-owned Andes Petroleum bought oil blocks 74, 79, and 83 in Sápara homelands [12]. Ecuador at the time was in a lot of debt and financially suffering from lowering oil prices [10]. Ecuador produces 540,000 barrels a day of crude oil, its top export. As oil prices fall, the country is seeking loans from Chinese companies to keep its economy afloat [8]. Their contract states that profits from the project, thought to bring high oil prices, are to be split evenly between the Ecuadorian state and Andes Petroleum [7]. Opening up such a vulnerable region to fossil fuel development has led to what is called a cultural genocide of a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity group that is already near extinction with only 560 people left [1, 3]. During this time, the government also imposed a highly controversial carbon offset project in the same area. What makes the dire situation even worse is that the government has been, often violently, repressing any civil society organizations and activists speaking out against oil expansion [1].The Sápara, along with their neighboring indigenous peoples, have been very against these developments in their territory from the beginning, denouncing them for violating environmental and  indigenous rights. These people had been very quickly affected by the consequences of the oil extraction, which caused increased seismic disturbances and water contamination [2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Andes Petroleum Oil Proposal in Sápara Indigenous Territory in Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador
State or province:Pastaza
Location of conflict:Amazon rainforest
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Andes Petroleum Ecuador Ltd. is an oil exploration and production consortium created by Chinese state-owned companies Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corp. Andes Petro. Andes Petroleum purchased the rights to explore oil blocks in the Amazon that cover an area of 202,342 hectares, 1.5 times the size of the city of Los Angeles. The deal was worth about $80 million.

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Project area:202,342
Level of Investment for the conflictive project80,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:19,900
Start of the conflict:28/11/2013
End of the conflict:10/10/2019
Company names or state enterprises:China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) from China
Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) from China
Andes Petroleum from China
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources
Department of Justice
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sápara Women’s association. Asociación de Mujeres Sápara (Ashinwaka).
Saramanta Warmikuna.
Red Ambiental Indígena (IEN)
Amazon Watch
Energy Intelligence
Fund for Urgent Action
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Soil erosion, Oil spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:After many years of legal battles, protests, and threats, Andes Petroleum withdrew its oil exploration contract in 2019. Gloria Ushigua is still fighting for indigenous and environmental rights, however, there still has not been any resolution for her court case accusing her of terrorism, sabotage, and obstruction of public roads from 2014.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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[10] El Economista. Andes Petroleum explotará dos bloques en Ecuador (2016)
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[11] WWF. Inside the Amazon (2019)
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[13] 24 July 2017. Indígenas se oponen a perforación petrolera en el amazonas ecuatoriano. El Espectador.
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(Video) Gloria Ushigua Santi: Defend the Sapara People
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update19/02/2020
Conflict ID:4927
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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