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  • Amazon Watch was founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin.

    Amazon Watch was founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. | Photo: Shutterstock Image

Published 17 February 2016
Amazon Watch has helped in the campaign to hold Chevron accountable for its environmental contamination of the Ecuadorean Amazon.

The article by Stansfield Smith titled "The Amazon Watch Campaign Against Ecuador's Revolution" is poorly-researched and riddled with factual errors, misleading information, and falsehoods.

Smith accuses Amazon Watch of being "corporate-backed."

This is false.

Amazon Watch has never taken corporate donations and has a clear policy against the practice. Our major funders are a matter of public record and are listed in our annual report on our website.

Smith's piece proceeds to quote an "outrageous article" allegedly by Amazon Watch criticizing the response of the Ecuadorian government to Indigenous and civil society protests. But a simple reading of the "article" shows that it is a declaration from the indigenous Kichwa people of Sarayaku and not a statement from Amazon Watch.

As for the Yasuni-ITT initiative, Smith ignores the fact that Amazon Watch was a major supporter of the initiative. Our founder was an official Ambassador for the proposal and we worked closely with the government of Ecuador on technical components of the proposal itself, as well as promotion and fundraising.

Our extensive work with Ecuador's government and experience championing the initiative among foreign nations, civil society, and decision makers around the world led us to believe that the demise of the Yasuni-ITT initiative was a shared failure of both the international community and poor management and contradictory policies of the Correa administration that eventually doomed the project.


Contrary to Smith’s misleading insinuation, Amazon Watch never has shied away from placing a good portion of the blame on the governments that shunned the initiative. In fact, the Amazon Watch press release that Smith cites has a paragraph preceding the one he quotes, which reads:

“There was little interest from Annex I countries who, despite professed interest in addressing climate change and recognition of share responsibility, were unwilling to contribute to an initiative that did not provide carbon credits and essentially fell outside existing market based schemes for emissions reductions. “

Smith's failure to mention our years of support, and accusation that we let the world off the hook for not contributing to the initiative is simply contrary to the evidence and intellectually dishonest.

Smith’s article also fails to mention our years of work with local Amazon Indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador to hold Chevron accountable for one of the worst oil disasters on the planet in the Ecuadorian Amazon – a major campaign of Correa's as well. Correa praised our nomination of Chevron when the company won the Public Eye Award for being the worst corporation on the planet. He also praised Amazon Watch for publishing the 'Chevron Tapes' exposing the company's effort to corrupt the trial against it in Ecuador.

While China's lending to Ecuador - eleven loans totaling $15.2 billion - fortunately hasn't come with the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) from traditional predatory western lenders like the World Bank and IMF that have wreaked havoc throughout Latin America, the loans are certainly not without their onerous conditions. As such, they cannot be immune from criticism just because they are less bad that those of previous years. They are oil-backed loans that have allowed China to claim some 90 percent of Ecuador's oil shipments and are a major factor in Correa's drive to open up new areas of its Amazon for drilling over the objections of local Indigenous communities, with potentially disastrous human, environmental, and economic consequences. Ecuador's oil sells now for roughly $20 per barrel, but costs $39 per barrel to extract.

Readers can decide whether the strings attached to China's lending qualifies as "respecting other countries' paths of economic and political development" as Smith claims, or whether it's something more obvious: a bad deal. Either way, Smith is obligated to provide some facts.

Amazon Watch was founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with Indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems. As a non-governmental organization, we will continue to work toward that regardless of the political ideology - right or left - of sitting governments in the countries where we work.

Mr. Smith is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he's not entitled to misrepresent ours.

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