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JUNE 17, 2002
5:01 PM
CONTACT:  Rainforest Action Network
Ilyse Hogue 415-398-4404
Julia Butterfly Hill Arrested in Ecuador Oil Protest
Occidental Petroleum’s Quito Office Shut Down by Protesters
QUITO, ECUADOR - July 17 - Quito police today arrested activist Julia Butterfly Hill and at least 7 other peaceful protestors outside the Quito offices of US oil company Occidental Petroleum (OXY). Most of those arrested represent Ecuadorian communities adversely affected by the new OCP pipeline being built by Oxy. Julia Butterfly is in Ecuador to show her support for the national struggle to resist the destructive petroleum infrastructure project.

Community representatives from Mindo, Esmeraldas, Lago Agrio and Shushufindi, along with members of Acción Ecológica and Amazon Watch, had arrived at the Oxy offices with Julia Butterfly for a 3pm meeting with senior officials to discuss the environmental and social impacts of the project.

Upon arrival, the delegation was refused entrance to the meeting at which time the crowd peacefully began to protest their exclusion. Shortly thereafter the arrests were made. In some cases, police acted violently kicking community representatives, and dragging them by the hair to throw them against vehicles.

The protest still continues with the crowd largely comprised of individuals whose homes and communities are threatened by the controversial pipeline. After 50 demonstrators shut down Oxy’s offices for two hours and closed Avenida Amazonas, one of Quito’s main streets, in front of their office, Oxy finally agreed to meet with community representatives early this evening.

Before her arrest at around 5pm Quito time, Julia Butterfly said:

“I am here working to help the people affected by oil exploitation to have their chance to be heard. Why can’t Oxy look these affected people in the eye?”

Yesterday Julia Butterfly, best known for her two-year tree sit 200 feet atop a 2000-year old threatened California old growth redwood tree, accompanied several dozen local community members from Mindo, and members of Acción Ecológica and Amazon Watch, in a re-occupation of the Guarumos construction site of the OCP in the Mindo Nambillo Cloudforest Reserve, in order to bear witness to the destruction caused by the building of the pipeline.

Mindo residents discovered Monday that construction has illegally advanced 200 meters inside the Guarumos property owned by the community. Residents have notified the OCP consortium and the police that such actions constitute illegal trespass on private lands. A judge is expected to visit the site Friday, accompanied by community members, to issue a ruling on the property lines.

The Mindo Nambillo Cloudforest Reserve, through which the OCP is being built, is an unparalleled epicenter of biodiversity and home to more than 450 species of birds—46 threatened by extinction. Construction works have now reached a tapering knife-edge ridge, high above the region’s watersheds. According to Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, “to bring heavy machinery up here would cause massive landslides and a massacre of incredible and endangered ecosystems.”

Lead financer, German bank WestLB, has come under intense fire for syndicating a $900 million loan to the OCP in violation of its own lending policies. The loan, which does not meet minimum World Bank environmental guidelines has sparked public outrage in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia (NWR), which holds a 43 percent stake in WestLB. In recent months, several German government delegations have visited Ecuador to investigate the issue. US bank, Citigroup has also been highlighted as a top lender to consortium members.

Los Angeles-based Occidental is a key member of the OCP consortium, and is planning significant expansion of its Ecuador operations in pristine Amazon ecosystems, in expectation of the pipeline’s completion. According to government sources, the majority of Amazon crude that will flow through the OCP pipeline is destined for markets on the West Coast of the United States. The OCP Consortium includes: Alberta Energy (Canada), Occidental Petroleum (OXY- USA), AGIP (Italy), Repsol-YPF (Spain), Perez Companc (Argentina), and Techint (Argentina). The US Bank JP Morgan Chase is the financial advisor for the project.

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