PUMPUENTSA, Ecuador — As international energy companies move into the Amazon basin to tap some of the last untouched oil and natural gas reserves, more and more natives are fighting to keep them out.
Oil workers and contractors have been kidnapped, company officials say. Equipment has been vandalized. Protests, injunctions and lawsuits are piling up as Indian groups grow increasingly savvy in their cooperation with environmentalists.
The governments may increasingly regard the Amazon as an engine for economic growth, but native groups are struggling to balance development with the desire to preserve a nearly primordial way of life.
"Let the military come in, because we will defend to the last," said Medardo Santi, a leader of Kichwa Indians in an unspoiled jungle region that has been mapped for oil exploration in Ecuador, where the dispute is most contentious. "As long as we live here, we will defend our rights."