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Populism or Petrostate?: The Afterlives of Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative

Kingsbury, Donald V., Kramarz, Teresa, Jacques, Kyle
Society & natural resources 2019 v.32 no.5 pp. 530-547
climate change, income, national parks, oils, Ecuador
In 2007, the Government of Ecuador announced the Yasuní-ITT Initiative: a proposal to forego exploiting 20% of its oil reserves located in the Yasuní National Park – home to one of the earth’s most biodiverse places and several indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation. In exchange, Ecuador asked the international community for $3.6 billion, roughly half the projected revenues of conventional oil extraction. Five years later, Ecuador received less than 10% of the required pledges and the initiative was canceled. Many accounts emphasized the then President Rafael Correa’s perceived untrustworthiness as key in explaining the initiative’s failure. This article instead examines the role of entrenched institutions of the petrostate, emphasizing how the initiative defied expectations by offering a post-extractivist path for Ecuador. Despite its failure, this horizon continues to orient debates on development and extractivism, forming “afterlives” of a call to mitigate climate change by leaving oil in the ground.