This article examines the tensions between constitutional rights, welfare politics and extractivism in Ecuador. In practice, the rights of nature risk being subordinated to other human values amidst strategic State interests in economic development and social programs, due to the government’s pragmatic approach toward environmental rights. The Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 has been celebrated for being the most radical in the world regarding the specific rights of nature and the indigenous peoples. The central framing of the Constitution is the indigenous concept of Sumak Kawsay regarding humans being in harmony with nature. The Rafael Correa government launched a groundbreaking initiative to protect biodiversity and indigenous peoples in the oil rich national park of Yasuní, adding to the image of Ecuador as an ecological alternative to follow and a challenge to global capitalism. Far-reaching welfare programs have been implemented during the Correa administration, but resource extraction has increased. In light of the Ecuadoran experience, substantial questions remain as to whether Sumak Kawsay can be a path for socialist transformation and ecologically solvent development.


21st-Century Socialism, ecosocialism, Ecuador, environmental pragmatism, environmental sociology, extractivism, indigenous peoples, rights of nature, Sumak Kawsay, Yasuní

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