QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador's electoral council has rejected as insufficient a petition drive calling for voters decide whether to proceed with oil drilling in a pristine Amazon nature reserve as planned by President Rafael Correa.
The council's announcement Tuesday that not enough signatures were collected was met with cries of fraud by the drive's organizers. They claim the council is biased, unfairly stacked with Correa loyalists.
The council approved just 359,781 of the 850,000 signatures collected. That's well under the 583,323 signatures needed to force a referendum.
It's not yet clear when drilling would begin in the Yasuni reserve, which holds an estimated 843 million barrels of oil worth about $18 billion.
Correa tried for six years to get rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill in the preserve. His campaign was novel but failed to attract sufficient donors. Governments complained about a lack of guarantees.