21 dic. 2016

URGENT: Military attacks against indigenous people in Ecuador.

Diseño: Angie Vanessita

“The military came with thirty trucks and two helicopters that shot at us. I’ve been told one of us is injured but I don’t know anything about the others. Everyone ran off to the forest”, says an indigenous person who was a target of the helicopter shooting [1]

On the 15th of December, the Ecuadorian government sent troops, tanks, and helicopters against an indigenous community in Ecuador. The civilians got shot at from two helicopters with automatic weapons while fire bombs were dropped on houses and crops that the indigenous people feed on. The president of Ecuador refused to have a dialogue, in contrary, he threatened with even more violence.

The indigenous people in Ecuador have a long history of conflict with the government, which mercilessly has invaded their territories to exploit natural resources, violating their constitutional rights. For example, the heavily criticized company Lundin Gold operates large scale mining operations in areas nearby to the current conflicts.

Among others, the Shuar people have been protecting their land against entrance of Chinese mining companies (EXSA China, Ecuacorrientes) for a long time, but now it has escalated to a violent situation with military repressing the indigenous people.

Timeline with continuous updates:

2008: After finding out that the president Rafael Correa is planning to sell what’s left of their land, the Shuar organization FISCH proclaims that they will not under any circumstances accept mining in their territory.[2]

2009: Rafael Correa ignores the Shuar protests and closes deals with Chinese companies (EXSA China), and proceeds to initiate preparations for mining, leading to a series of conflicts. [3] 
Those who oppose the mining are subject to repression. For example, three Shuar leaders have been killed during this conflict: Bosco Wisum in 2009,[4] Freddy Taish in 2013,[5]  and José Tendentza in 2014.[6]

The shuar people then establish a strategic point, Nankints, and manage to halt the advances of the mining companies from further entering into their lands.[7]

2016: The Shuar people try to have a dialogue with the government, insisting that the mining project violates their constitutional rights, and therefore plead the government to remove mining companies from Shuar territory. This dialogue however, is interrupted by police raids in which the indigenous are forced away from the Nankints area. [8]

On the 21st of November, a group of Shuaras manage to retake control over Nankints. Unfortunately, this leads to confrontations between police and Shuaras. The government then sends hundreds of police and military troops to Nankints, which result in injuries on both sides.[9]

On the 22nd of november, the organization CONAIE (Confederation Of Indigenous Nationalities Of Ecuador) put out a press release in which they request the government to cancel all military activity in the area, and participate in a dialogue instead. The request is ignored, and the military occupation of the area is continued.[10]

On the 15th of December, police officer is unfortunately killed in the violent clashes.[11] 

The government responds by sending tanks, dozens of trucks loaded with soldiers, and two helicopters. According to victims, the helicopters shot at civilians including women and children, who all ran out to the forest to hide. [12] 

Witnesses also say the military dropped fire bombs on houses, crop fields that the Shuar feed on, and also a part of primary forest. Number of injured is unknown. Schools cancel all their activities in nearby communities Panantza and Gualaquiza.

On the 17th of December: There are continuous shootings during the morning. Military forces now occupies multiple shuar communities. Various Shuar leaders get arrested in the Tananza area. [13]

On the 19th of December, the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa proclaims that he will not hold any dialogues with the Shuar people until those responsible for the death of the police officer are held responsible .[14]

On the same day, CONAIE proclaims that three shuar people have been injured, one of them   severely with a bullet in the scapula with no access to medical attention, and one child has disappeared. Twelve innocent people are arrested. CONAIE also proclaims that the government, besides violating their rights, is using government controlled media to manipulate information, spreading false news, defaming the Shuar people.

Government vehicles at Acción Ecológica offices.
On the 20th of December, the Ecuadorian ministry of environment tries to shut down environmentalist NGO “Acción Ecológica”, for supporting  the Shuar people.[15]

On the 21st od December, the shuar organisation FISCH office is raided by 100 police. President of FISCH, Agustin Wachapá, is detained. [16]
Rumors also say that the government is trying to provoke an armed conflict between the majority of Shuar people, who wants to protect their lands, and the minority, that due to economic interests are on the governments side. This strategy of control is nothing new, it has long been used in Ecuador, other South American countries and the world: by dividing and conquering.

Similar things are also happening in other parts of Ecuador, in the Kichwa village Sarayaku, which is internationally known for its successful struggle against oil companies:

Militars in Sarayaku
19th December, in Sarayaku: Eleven soldiers are stopped by Sarayaku leaders due to suspicious activity in Sarayaku territory. Normally the military informs Sarayaku leaders before entering their territory, but this time they had not informed anyone. On their Facebook page ”Sarayaku Defensores De La Selva”, they proclaime that they had to interrogate the soldiers for safety reasons, and they also guarantee that the human rights of the soldiers will be respected. [17]

On the 20th of December, the Pastaza province governor and military commander enter the Sarayaku Community to hold a dialogue and to find a solution regarding the situation. The president Rafael Correa states that this is a kidnapping, and that he is worried about armed indigenous groups in this territory. The Sarayaku leaders on the other hand, insist that this is in line with their constitutional rights, which grant them rights to take such actions in order to maintain safety in their territory.[18] 

After a peaceful agreement with the governor, the soldiers are finally released in good condition.
Hours later, Rafael Correa disavows these disagreements made by the governor and the commander, requesting a change of governor. He warns Sarayaku that there will be consequences.[19]

Various indigenous organizations (CONAIE, CONFENIAE, FISCH) now plead to the government to cancel all military activity to avoid further escalation of the violence, and a possible genocide. They also ask human rights organizations for help to defend the Shuar and other indigenous peoples rights.


For more updates please follow:

#nankints #resistenankints #sospuebloshuar #sarayaku