On August 15th, 2005 residents of Sucumbios & Orellana, supported by the local elected officials, began an open-ended civic strike in Northern Ecuador. Amongst other reasons, the main reason for the strike was to cancel contracts made with two transnational oil companies, the U.S. based Occidental (OXY) and Canada¡¦s EnCana. Strikers want OXY to abandon Ecuador altogether. According to Britain¡¦s Financial Times report, EnCana is desperate to leave Ecuador as soon as possible.
There has been contradicting evidence indicating whether or not EnCana¡¦s pipeline has been leaking crude oil into a river, as protesters are claiming, but which the Ecuadoran environmental group Ecological Action denies is the case.
On August 17th, 2005 Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacio decreed a state of emergency in Sucumbios & Orellana, which allowed constitutional rights to be suspended in the two provinces, which lead to mass protest in the streets of Nueva Loja on the same day, August 17th, 2005. This inturn lead the police and army forces to crack down on the crowds, leading to numerous injuries and dozens of arrests.
On August 18th, 2005 Petroecuador suspended all crude oil exports because of the protests and the protesters seizure of several Petroecuador installations. Amongst the oil installations, protesters also took control of various major roads and the two major airports in El Coca.
On August 19th, 2005 Ecuador¡¦s new economy minister Magdalena Barreiro requested Venezuela¡¦s help to meet oil export targets, as Ecuador is South America¡¦s fifth largest producer of crude oil and the second largest exporter to the U.S. Oil exports finance, which composes approx. 35% of Ecuador¡¦s budget.
On August 19th, 2005 the mayor of Nueva Loja, Maximo Abad Jaramillo, as well as the governor of Sucumbios, Guillermo Munoz, and approx. 20 other local officials and leaders were arrested by government forces for their support of the strike.
On August 19th, 2005 after visiting police headquarters in Nueva Loja, Lago Agrio Human Rights Commission reported that the numerous people who had been detained were being tortured by soldiers. Amongst those being tortured were eight boys ages 12-17. On the same day, August 19th, 2005, Defense Minister General Solon Espinosa resigned or was forced out ¡§apparently¡¨ because he opposed repressing the strikers.
On August 21st, 2005, Nueva Loja mayor, Abad, (still under arrest) told a Spanish news service (EFE), that the strike had been suspended to allow dialogue with the government. Guadalupe Llori, President of the strike committee in Orellana, denied that the strike had been suspended and declared that it would continue until Abad and Munoz had been freed.
Letter by Nerys Poole was sent on August 26, 2005