Ambush in Sarayaku territory leaves three persons seriously injured
In spite of the attack, Sarayaku evicts invaders
- May 2, 2010
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
Paul Paz y Miño, 415-487-9600 x302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarayaku, Ecuador- Ambush in Sarayaku territory leaves three persons seriously injured: In spite of the attack, Sarayaku evicts invaders
On Friday 29th of April at 7.30 pm, a group of men from Sarayaku were attacked with dynamite and firearms. Our comrades managed to see that some of the attackers were of African race. The attack happened in the jungle, within the ancestral territory of Sarayaku, while the people from the community were having a break to drink. The assailants fired at point-blank range and three persons were injured. Rudy Ortíz was shot in his chest and his upper leg, whereas Wilson Malaver was shot in the stomach. Silvio Malaver, who received the impact of the dynamite, shows signs of brain damage. They had to be carried through the jungle for 14 hours to the airstrip in Sarayaku, and were then taken to hospital in the town of Puyo by ambulance airplane.
The reasons behind the attack have to do with the position of Sarayaku to not allow a group of outsiders to occupy a portion of land, within the territory legally allotted to Sarayaku, in order to construct a new airstrip. The intention of these persons is to settle there and form a pseudo community that they call Kutukachi, in order to negotiate with the oil company AGIP. The portion of the Sarayaku territory that these people try to occupy is affected by the Block 10, a concession held by AGIP. This intention was clearly demonstrated on April 22, 2010 when, in a meeting with the communities within Block 10, the Ministry of Non-renewable Resources and the Secretary of Peoples mentioned the request from the "Community of Kutukachi" for being included in the Community Relations Plan of the AGIP Company. The intentions of the so-called "Kutucachi community" to occupy our territory in order to facilitate the start of oil operations in the area are clearly evidenced in the minutes of this meeting.
The leader of the invaders is Mr. Sergio Gualinga, who was born in Sarayaku but left over 25 years ago, and ever since has lived in the town of Shell as well as several years in the United States. After returning to Ecuador, he worked during several years for the oil company CGC as a community liaison officer. His task was to break Sarayaku's resistance using fraud, division, and calumnies. Although he was not able to fulfill this task, his actions caused serious perturbances and human rights violations in the Sarayaku community, as has been recognized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Among those who make up the group of invaders are also some relatives of Sergio Gualinga, some from other Amazonian peoples, as well as people from other regions, even some people from foreign countries who have absolutely nothing to do with the Kichwa people of Sarayaku.
The area in question forms part of the ancestral territory of Sarayaku, where the statutes, regulations, and management plan of the community are in force, as these have been approved by the General Assembly of the community. The decision of the Sarayaku people is that the area affected by the invaders should continue to be reserved for hunting and fishing and nothing else. This was decided by the Sarayaku people who, exercising indigenous justice as guaranteed by the Constitution of Ecuador, carried out a public judgment with the presence of public authorities of the State, disposed the eviction of the invaders.
Sarayaku requested to the governor of the Pastaza Province, that she would order the police force to provide security at the date of the eviction, according to the article 171 of the Constitution of Ecuador. The governor responded, through letter numbered 0339-GPP, by ordering the police to comply with the request presented by Sarayaku, but later retracted, cancelling the entry of the police to Sarayaku, thus leaving Sarayaku without the needed protection.
It is not true, as Sergio Gualinga has pronounced in the media, that the Constitutional Court has recognized territory to the invaders. This is not so. The Court could not have done this, because that would imply dispossessing the Sarayaku people from their ancestral territory, something which the Constitution explicitly prohibits. We challenge Sergio Gualinga to show the sentence in question. We know that the Court supported, because of formal errors made by the authority in charge, an appeal regarding the withdrawal of the legal status of the "Kutucachi community", which was decided when it was found out that the legal status had been granted based on false information. This, however, has nothing to do with the territory in question.
We reject the false rumors spread by Sergio Gualinga and his accomplices - in order to spread fear and instigate more violence - that tens of people would have been killed and captured. In spite of the violent attack against the Sarayaku people, we carried out the eviction as planned, and there were no deaths and nobody captured. A brother of Sergio Gualinga, who participated in the ambush, just suffered some bruises. When the people from Sarayaku arrived to the site of the invasion, the invaders had already fled and all that remained to do was to remove the remaining huts where the invaders had been lodging.
We also denounce the position of the governmental newspaper El Ciudadano which, without researching the issue or allowing for a reply, insists in diffusing versions according to which the person responsible for the violent happenings is Marlon Santi, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). This only shows that they want to use the problems of Sarayaku for political purposes, in order to weaken CONAIE and benefit the oil companies. Neither Santi nor CONAIE have had any responsibility whatsoever. Their role has been, as is their duty, to show solidarity with the Sarayaku people which once again find their human rights being trampled.