Ecuador's attorney general Saturday urged the government to negotiate with oil firms to stop drilling for crude in a protected area deep in the Amazon jungle where Indian tribes live in seclusion from the outside world.
That recommendation could affect operations of Spain's Repsol, Brazil's Petrobras, China's Andes Petroleum Corp. and Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador.
Those companies have part of their oil blocks inside the 1.7 million-acre protected area that is home to two tribes of hunters and gatherers, known as Tagaeri and Taromenani, who in 1950s decided to cut ties with the outside world.
"The attorney general's office considers urgent the exit of oil companies from the protected areas, via a negotiation," the office of Atty. Gen. Xavier Garaicoa said.
The statement added that the government should include a ban on oil activities in the area in its negotiations with foreign firms to boost state participation in current deals.
President Rafael Correa, a former college professor who taught environmental economics, has pledged to protect the tribes from unwanted development after reports of deadly clashes between Indians wielding spears and illegal loggers armed with guns.
Ecuador wants $350 million a year for it not extracting oil under the Yasuni reserve.