Like many South American countries, Ecuador has long been an exporter of raw materials – from agricultural produce such as cocoa and bananas, to oil, which alone accounts for more than half of its annual earnings. Now Rafael Correa, the country’s socialist president, believes much additional revenue could be gained by aggressively exploiting other natural resources, particularly gold and other precious metals with which Ecuador is endowed. However, many Ecuadorians think the cost of this glittering prize could be far too high. Farmers, indigenous groups and environmentalists are campaigning furiously against large scale mining projects and provisions in a new water law backed by Correa’s government. They say the changes will open up pristine rural areas to extraction, pollute critical water supplies and deny local communities control over precious resources.
Bob Abeshouse reports for People & Power on how Ecuador may soon have to choose between economic growth and environmental protection.