On Friday, Correa corrected himself, saying that less than one-thousandth of Yasuní would be affected by exploration.
Ending the program could create other pressures for the government.
The Huaorani indigenous group lives in and around the park. On Friday, Moi Enomenga, a Huaorani leader, said that if the government was going to exploit oil in the region then the country’s 3,000 Huaorani needed to be compensated.
“We supported the Yasuní project but now the government says it doesn’t work,” he said.
“If the government is going to pull money out of our region then — dead or alive — we need money for our people.”
Correa laid the blame for the project’s failure at the doorstep of the developed world, which preached conservation but failed to act, he said.
The United States, China and Japan, the world’s three largest oil consumers, never backed the project although a host of European and developing nations — Turkey and Indonesia among them — did.
But his critics say the government mishandled the process by sending mixed messages and relying too much on large international donors to support the project.
“Ecuador and the world lost the opportunity to crystallize a revolutionary idea,” said Alberto Acosta, a one-time Correa cabinet member who has been an advocate for the Yasuní initiative. “It was a huge step on the road toward a post-extractive future, and above all it was an ethical and politically ethical project.”
Under the rules of the United Nations trust fund set up for Yasuní, the country will have to return donations larger than $50,000. Ivonne Baki, the head of the government office that promotes the project, plans to hold a news conference Monday to discuss what happens next.
In Ecuador, passions run deep over the environment. The country’s constitution talks about a healthy environment being a fundamental right.
The nation markets itself abroad as home to the world-renowned Galapagos Islands and the lush Amazon.
“People are willing to go to great lengths to defend the Yasuní,” said Martinez with Acción Ecológica. “What’s at stake is not just a piece of the Amazon but our national identity.”