An Open Letter to Rafael Correa

The Ecuadoran government recently withdrew the legal status of the well-respected Acción Ecológica, a local environmental group. The organization has been highly critical of the Correa administration's environmental policies, particularly a government-backed mining law reform. For 20 years, the group has worked closely with indigenous movement and the communities directly affected by mining and oil exploitation. Activist-writer Naomi Klein wrote the President an open letter in support of Acción Ecológica.

March 12, 2009

Dear President Correa,

As you may know, last May I had a wonderful visit to Ecuador during which I witnessed firsthand many of the bold and innovative measures your government is taking to deepen national democracy and advance the goal of economic and ecological justice. In my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, I write with great admiration about how you have stood up to U.S. imperialism in multiple ways, from exposing World Bank extortion to the closure of the base at Manta.

So it was with genuine shock and confusion that I learned of the Health Ministry’s move to close down Acción Ecológica by withdrawing its legal status. I have been following Acción Ecológica's groundbreaking (or should I say “ground protecting”) work for years. When I was in Quito, it was a genuine thrill to meet several of the group’s leaders in person and I was very proud to share a platform with the incomparable Esperanza Martínez at the official launch of the Ecuadorian edition of my book.

In my research and public speaking, I have been very fortunate to travel widely, meeting with hundreds of activist groups around the world. Yet I have never seen an environmental organization like Acción Ecológica. Too often the environmental movement is part of a professional class of NGOs, more interested in nature than in people. What impressed me so much about Acción Ecológica was the fact that it is so clearly part of a genuine people’s movement, working in direct solidarity with the communities affected by the extractive industries. It is also on the absolute vanguard of what will surely prove to be the most important intellectual movement of our time: the one seeking to protect the “rights of nature” and to fund that project by requiring the wealthy polluting nations to pay our “ecological debts.” Related to this, I was excited to learn recently that you had signed a decree to keep the Yasuni-ITT oil in the ground (at least for now).

That is what makes the attacks on Acción Ecológica so disconcerting. As you well know, in nine months, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place in Copenhagen. This may be the most important gathering for the future of our planet, a chance to put global warming back on the international agenda (after being pushed off by the financial meltdown) and, more importantly, to resist the push from financial speculators to have a “green bubble” to replace the derivatives bubble.

There are many of us who are determined to put the issue of “ecological debt” at the very center of the debate in Copenhagen. Ecuador should naturally be at the forefront of this movement, which is why, in the lead-up to Copenhagen, activists around the world are looking to your country for inspiration.

What a shame it is that instead of seeing what I saw—a progressive government working with grassroots and indigenous movements to find solutions that reconcile economic justice with ecological imperatives and indigenous rights—these activists are instead seeing something all too familiar: a state seemingly using its power to weaken dissent. In this crucial time, we need Acción Ecológica more than ever, and we need it to be as strong and stable as possible.

Mr. President, I fully realize how difficult it is for an outsider to understand the complex internal forces shaping actions in another country. I may very well have misconstrued your government’s intentions, and if so, I am genuinely sorry. Still, I thought you would want to know how this action is being perceived by many outside Ecuador who are anxious to work with you in the run up to Copenhagen.

With great respect,

Naomi Klein


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