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CERLAC-linked York PhD led successful campaign to keep “the oil in the soil”

CERLAC-linked York PhD led successful campaign to keep “the oil in the soil”

A York Social and Political Thought (SPT) PhD, Carlos Larrea (1993), was a leading figure in the recent successful national campaign to “keep oil in the soil” in the Yasuni National Park in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. The referendum question about Yasuni was on the ballot during the first round of presidential elections on August 20, 2023, when 59 percent of the country’s citizens voted to effectively protect indigenous rights, conserve biodiversity, and mitigate climate change by not exploiting and exporting petroleum from the Park.

This is a first in the world event. No other petroleum exporting country has decided to abstain from production to protect environmental and humanitarian values.

Carlos, with the support of environmental organizations, first presented the proposal about non-exploitation of the Yasuni to the national government of Ecuador and to the United Nations in 2007. It was accepted by both, but Ecuador’s government decided to open the Park to production in 2013 when the international financial compensation it expected to receive for non-exploitation did not materialize.

A national social movement called the Yasunidos (united for Yasuni), in which Carlos was a leading participant, then collected 750,000 signatures to include the question on the ballot in the following presidential election. However, the government refused to recognize the validity of the signatures that had been collected, and it was only when the Constitutional Court reversed that decision that the referendum on Yasuni was presented to Ecuador’s electorate in August 2023.

In Carlos’ words, in a letter to his colleagues at the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) at York, “as an intellectual committed to equity, sustainability, and the preservation of the Amazon, I provided all my support to Yasunidos during their long judicial struggle and their recent campaign, utilizing my sixteen years of research on Yasuni to provide strategic support for this historic victory for the Amazon and the planet”.