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Ecuadorian tribe gets reprieve from oil intrusion

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
17 January 2013
Publisher Name: 
The Guardian
Jonathan Watts
Author e-Mail: 
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An indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon has won a reprieve after building up an arsenal of spears, blowpipes, machetes and guns to fend off an expected intrusion by the army and a state-run oil company.

The residents of Sani Isla expressed relief that a confrontation with Petroamazonas did not take place on Tuesday as anticipated, but said the firm is still trying to secure exploration rights in their area of pristine rainforest.

"We have won a victory in our community. We're united," said the community president, Leonardo Tapuy. "But the government and the oil company won't leave us alone. "

The Kichwa tribe on Sani Isla, had said they were ready to fight to the death to protect their territory, which covers 70,000 hectares. More than a quarter of their land is in Yasuni national park, the most biodiverse place on earth.

Petroamazonas had earlier told them it would begin prospecting on their land on 15 January, backed by public security forces.

Before the expected confrontation,the shaman, Patricio Jipa said people were making blowpipes and spears, trying to borrow guns and preparing to use sticks stones and any other weapons they could lay their hands on.

"Our intention was not to hurt or kill anyone, but to stop them from entering our land," he said.

It is unclear why Petroamazonas hesitated. The company has yet to respond to the Guardian's request for a comment.

Locals speculated that it was due to a reaffirmation of opposition to the oil company at a marathon community meeting on Sunday.

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