Yesterday Ecuador held a binding constitutional referendum which asked voters seven questions, two of which were directly aimed at controversial environmental issues. The first environmental question was about mining, which the previous government had been pushing hard. The question asked whether Ecuador should prohibit metal mining in protected areas and urban areas. The second environmental question was about Yasuni National Park, which our former president, Raphael Correa, opened up to petroleum exploitation. Correa’s administration lied to the populace and manipulated it to provide political cover for the oil drilling inside this most important national park. The referendum question asked the Ecuadorian people whether the area open to petroleum exploitation should be reduced to 1/3 of its previous value, and whether the “untouchable zone” in the park (designed to protect indigenous people) should be expanded by 50000 hectares.
Another question relevant to EcoMinga asked whether the current very high tax on land sale profits should be rescinded. Many landowners whom we deal with had been afraid to sell their land to us for fear the government would take away most of the money we would pay them.
There was one other question relevant to all Ecuadorians and especially environmentally-conscious citizens: Should politicians be limited to two terms? Correa had changed the laws so that he could run indefinitely, and he is widely believed to be plotting his return for the next election. This would be a disaster for the environment and for democracy here.
I am proud to say that the Ecuadorian people are very environmentally conscious, on the average, and they voted resoundingly for the added environmental protections, and against the extreme land tax, and against multiple re-elections, all by a 2:1 margin!