23 October 2007

ENVIRONMENTAL TERRORISTS AT LARGE IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa is full of good ideas this week. On his visit to Italy this week he is reported to have proposed that the UN publish a list of environmental terrorists whose reckless actions are putting the world in danger. He also agreed to let the US maintain its military base in Manta, if the US is willing to allow Ecuador to build a base inside the US. If sovereignty isn't the issue, he asks, what's the problem?

The two statements simultaneously show off his environmental credentials while sticking it to Uncle Sam at the same time. Correa is on tour winning the hearts and minds of Europe by taking communion and criticizing the US. What better combination?

It would all the more meaningful if Correa would ask for a list of the environmental terrorists whose reckless actions are putting Ecuador at risk or look at how his own actions are destabilizing Ecuador's economy, scaring off much needed foreign investment.

On the environmental front, Ecuador's environmental policies are nothing to shout about. Just because they haven't industrialized yet and consequently don't produce the same amounts of pollution as the US is no reason for Correa to brag about environmental stewardship. Have you ever drank the water in Quito, Sr. Presidente? What's going on in the Galapagos?

How about oil extraction in the Orient? I have seen the leaky oil pipelines running out of the jungles in Coca. They follow the same route as the road and routinely leak small quantities of petroleum onto the ground that eventually works its way into local water supplies. The water we were offered to drink by an Huarani community near Tiguino had oil scum floating on top. What's happening to them these days, Don Rafael?

While President Correa has inherited all of these problems and can't be blamed for causing them, it could take a serious professional attitude toward managing the country that doesn't involve scaring off foreign investment.

For example, Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim was in Ecuador two weeks ago to discuss ways his country could invest in the country. Correa took this opportunity to announce that Ecuador would no longer split windfall oil profits 50-50 with pertroleum companies, but will now distribute these profits 99-1. AND, he added, if there are any complaints those companies could lose even that 1 percent. While I am no great fan of oil extractors, the announcement was a diplomatic slap in the face of Brazil and its state-owned oil company PetroBras, who operates several oilfields in eastern Ecuador.

So, while I applaud Correa's call for a public list of environmental terrorists, I would love to see more of this type of creative thinking inside of Ecuador where the need to immediate action is also great. Perhaps now that he has a vice-grip on national politics he will be able to move forward with more constructive ideas and less political jib-jab.