For Immediate Release
Indigenous Blockades Escalate After Police Violently Attack Protest in the Ecuadorian Amazon
One Confirmed Dead and Dozens Injured in Unprovoked Attack on Demonstrations About Proposed New “Water and Land Rights Laws”
indigenous protesters blockading the bridge linking Upano between the
provinces of Morona Santiago and Pastaza. According to local
communities, law enforcement backed by a helicopter, opened fire on
demonstrators armed only with ceremonial spears. The attack has left at
least one confirmed dead, a teacher and member of the Shuar nation, and
some 49 civilians and police injured.
Tito Puenchir, President of the Confederation of Indigenous
Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) said in a statement
on Wednesday: "Today, President Correa declared a civil war against
nationalities from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Therefore we demand that the
OAS and the UN urgently intervene before the Government of Ecuador, to
monitor and observe the blatant violations of the rights of indigenous
peoples, that is our rights in accordance with all treaties and
conventions signed by our country as ILO Convention 169 and the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
CONFENIAE is the Amazonian arm of the Confederation of Indigenous
Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which is made up of three regional
groupings including CONFENAIE, the Amazon indigenous federation.
Initially, CONAIE's called for national marches was part of a
nation-wide protest against a new water law. Several thousand
indigenous people had begun protests midnight on Sunday opposing the
proposed water law. Privatization of water sources, prioritization of
water access for industry loose regulations for water contamination,
and lack of community participation in water management where the
foremost concerns of neglect in the water law. The groups are also
calling for the repeal of the country's mining law, and for an end to
oil and mining activities in the region. Ecuador's powerful teacher's
union, (UNE), also joined the strike to protest education ‘reforms'
proposed by the government.
The Correa Government earlier this week postponed all debate on the
water law pending the anticipated protests. Faced with continued
protests, the order was given for police to "use force in order to
clear the entrance and exit routes from the city" according to interior
Minister Gustavo Jalkh.
CONAIE had called for a temporary halt to protests in many areas, yet
CONFENIAE chose to continue its protests in the Amazon region due to
the unaddressed and unique circumstances around the water law in the
CONFENAIE is demanding that Correa travel to the region and meet
directly with local leaders and communities' representatives. Correa
has rejected the invitation, offering to engage in dialogue at the
Presidential Palace in Quito, the nation's capital.
Mitch Anderson of Amazon Watch who is currently in Ecuador said: "One
year after Ecuador recognized the rights of nature in its new
constitution, one of the most celebrated environmental safeguards in
history, President Correa is returning to business as usual."
Kevin Koenig, Amazon Watch's Ecuador-based coordinator observed:
"Correa's 'revolución cuidadana', or peoples' revolution campaign,
recognizes citizens' rights to protest and resist, which is exactly
what indigenous communities were doing. Sending 500 police to violently
disperse demonstrators was not only a blatant violation of human rights
but also goes against the spirit and the letter of the constitution
Correa fought so hard for."
Given the potential for the escalation of conflict, Amazon Watch issued
a statement appealing "to Ecuadorian President Correa and government
security forces to show complete restraint in the use of force against
its own civilian population who may be exercising their democratic
rights to peaceful protest and dissent." Amazon Watch called for
tolerance and peaceful dialogue instead of use of force to end the
current conflict as well as a full independent investigation into
yesterday's violent incident.