Theses defended

Da ira ao desengano no Equador do petróleo os limites do desenvolvimento frente ao Projeto Yasuní ITT no período 2013-2016

Elaine Santos

Public Defence date
July 3, 2020
Doctoral Programme
Law, Justice, and Citizenship in the Twenty First Century
Boaventura de Sousa Santos
National economies of the 20th century world society have recognized oil as their main source of energy. However, in the turn of the 21st century, many changes have occurred in the face of oil depletion, crude oil price fluctuations, climate change and its social impacts, leading us to seek to enhance alternative energy sources. Nevertheless, oil remains unprecedentedly relevant in the capitalist economy until today. In spite of the contradictions following the decrease of the currencies derived from oil exploration in Latin America, and even the privatization of national energy companies, left-wing governments in recent decades have adopted this energy source as a driving force and necessary condition to fund their social development agenda. Financed by the revenues from the extraction of natural resources, these rentier states were able to pass reformist policies meant to reduce social inequalities in various areas. These have resulted in significant but limited changes in the political and economic landscape of the region. The political crises that have lately destabilized the Latin America state can be partially explained by the fact that the extraction of natural resources remains oriented towards the needs of the hegemonic centers of capitalism. It is in reference to this broader scenario that this thesis dissects the case of Ecuador. A country that has just experienced a period of oil boom, Ecuador failed to make the leap and break with the structures that binds it to a scenario of underdevelopment. Most importantly, it categorically failed to implement the so-called Buen Vivir doctrine, which is one of the most important conclusions of my research. The contradiction of the scenario in Ecuador manifests itself in the opening of oil reserves located in the Yasuní Park, an environmental and indigenous preservation area. This proved to be a decision that polarized the former president Rafael Correa against the indigenous leaders of the country who had been his biggest supporters in the first term. The government, which had constitutionally recognized nature as a subject of rights and first inaugurated a rather innovative Yasuní ITT project intended not to exploit a large amount of oil located in this environmental reserve, ended up reproducing the logics of extractivism. In 2013, the anti-extractive project was abandoned in the name of development and progress, which can in retrospect be understood as reminiscent of another capitalist development project. This thesis analyzes the consequences of this Ecuadorian contradiction, namely how the Yasuní ITT project, which at first intended to leave oil underground, thus preventing high carbon dioxide emissions and preserving the Amazon and the original peoples, in reality contrasted with the Pluractional State model, its innovative constitution and, especially, its dependent capitalist economy. I analyze the period between 2013 to 2016, as it juxtaposes with the Correista administration which is the ultimate responsible for the decision to exploit oil in the Yasuní Park. Through an approach inspired by the Epistemologies from the South, I identify the impacts, silencing mechanisms and contradictions that permeate these policy changes.

Keywords: Yasuní Park, Oil, Extractivism, Ecuador, Development