Environmentalists have condemned a decision to give the US military permission to fly planes in and out of the Galapagos Islands’ airport.
American aircraft will be allowed to use the islands’ San Cristobal Airport, the Ecuadorian government announced, as part of a plan to ‘fight drug trafficking.’
But conservationists warn any increase in aviation activity could badly disrupt the islands’ ecosystem.
They have asked the government for further information on the scope of cooperation with the US, and about proposals to extend the runway at San Cristobal.
The archipelago is situated 500 miles west of Ecuador, and were named a Unesco World Heritage site famed for their unique range of plant and animal life.
The Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin’s famous book on evolution, On The Origin of Species, after he visited during the 1830s.
They cap the number of tourists allowed to visit to try and protect its natural habitats.
Animals native to the islands include giant tortoises, crested black iguanas, penguins and large ocean manta rays.
Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa was among those upset by the decision, warning on Twitter that the islands are ‘not an aircraft carrier’ for the US.
Opposition congressman Carlos Viteri branded the new agreement ‘unacceptable’ and warned it should be blocked ‘if it intends to cede an inch of Ecuadorian territory.’
Ecuador’s constitution describes the country as ‘a territory of peace’ and prohibits the construction of foreign military bases for military purposes on any of its soil.