Hand over the cash or the Amazon gets drilled
Ecuadorean President-elect Rafael Correa
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KAI RYSSDAL: In case you missed it, today's World Environment Day, so proclaimed by the United Nations. And to mark the occasion, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will offer the world a first-of-its-kind proposal. If international organizations and foreign governments pony up hundreds of millions of dollars a year in development aid, Ecuador will agree not to drill for oil in the Amazon Basin. We've got a year to come up with the cash. From the Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami, Marketplace's Dan Grech has more.
DAN GRECH: Yasuní National Park in Ecuador has as many tree species as the entire United States and Canada combined.
ROBERT HOFSTEDE: All the scientific data on biodiversity of this particular area break world records continuously.
That's Robert Hofstede with the World Conservation Union.
But there's a catch: the Yasuní also sits on 900 million barrels of untapped oil reserves. Starting in about a year, foreign oil companies will bid on those reserves.
So Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has a proposal: If the world ponies up $350 million a year for 10 years — that's half the expected revenue from the oil field — Ecuador won't sell rights to the oil.
HOFSTEDE: The message is: If we get the money, we will not touch the area.
The money could come from debt forgiveness, individual contributions and donations from countries and NGOs.
Ecuador could use the cash. Nearly half of its population lives in poverty.President Correa needs the money for social programs that are the cornerstone of his populist administration.
Ruben Montoya edits the daily newspaper Expreso in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Montoya says President Correa needs funds, and his only option right now is oil.Unless the international community delivers the cash instead.
I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.