RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a historic decision, Ecuadorians voted on Sunday against the oil drilling of a protected area in the Amazon that’s home to two uncontacted tribes and serves as a biodiversity hotspot.
With over 90% of the ballots counted by early Monday, around six in ten Ecuadorians rejected the oil exploration in Block 44, situated within Yasuni National Park, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. The area is inhabited by the Tagaeri and Taromenani, who live in self-isolation.
In 1989, Yasuni was designated a world biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known as UNESCO. Encompassing a surface area of over 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), it boasts 610 species of birds, 139 species of amphibians, and 121 species of reptiles. At least three species are endemic.
The outcome represents a significant blow to Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who advocated for oil drilling, asserting that its revenues are crucial to the country’s economy. As a result of the vote, state oil company Petroecuador will be required to dismantle its operations in the coming months.
The referendum took place alongside the presidential election, which will be decided in a runoff between leftist candidate Luisa González and right-wing contender Daniel Noboa. The country is experiencing political turmoil following the assassination of one of the candidates, Fernando Villavicencio.
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