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Equador: Electoral council rejects Amazon oil drilling referendum over 'fake' petition signatures

Petition for a referedum on oil drilling in the Yasuni nature reserve falls well short of required signatures as campaigners claim 'clear fraud' by Equador's electoral commission

Ecuador’s electoral council has rejected a petition calling for a referendum on oil drilling in the Yasuni Amazon basin nature reserve.

The council’s claim that not enough genuine signatures had been collected was met with cries of fraud by the drive’s organisers.

But council president Domingo Paredes insisted on Tuesday that many signatures were faked or duplicated.

The body approved just 359,781 of the 850,000 signatures collected — well under the 583,323 needed to force a vote.

The Yasuni reserve holds 843 million barrels of oil worth about $18 billion (£10.6bn).

President Rafael Correa depends heavily on oil revenues for social spending and tried for six years to get rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill.

But his novel environmental campaign failed to attract enough donors.

“We don’t have any other option,” Mr Correa said last year when he abandoned the effort. “We need money to overcome poverty.”

But petition organisers’ spokesman Patricio Chavez demanded the electoral council publish the annulled signatures.

“This is without precedent. This is a clear fraud,” he fumed.

“We have a copy of everything we turned over and before turning it over we did a verification to prevent any problems.”

Ecuadorian ambassador to Britain Juan Falconi said: “In the end, the Yasunidos were a very long way off enough signatories.

Nearly 240,000 signatures were ruled out and, even if they had included all the signatures ruled out in previous audits, the Yasunidos would still have fallen well short.”

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