Ecuador Cracks Down on Indigenous Leaders Opposed to Oil
- January 10, 2014
- Adam Zuckerman
Following the close of the 11th Round oil auction on November 28th, 2013, plain-clothes officers in Quito, Ecuador summarily closed the offices of Fundación Pachamama, a nonprofit that for 16 years has worked in defense of the rights of Amazonian indigenous peoples and the rights of nature. The dissolution, which the government blamed on their "interference in public policy," was a retaliatory act that sought to repress Fundación Pachamama's legitimate right to disagree with the government's policies, such as the decision to turn over Amazonian indigenous people's land to oil companies.
After attacking some of their closest allies, the Ecuadorian government is now attempting to take down Ecuador's indigenous leaders who are committed to defending their territory from any oil development plans by companies including PetroAmazonas, Andes Petroleum, ENAP, Belorusneft and Repsol. The Secretary of Hydrocarbons has filed a formal complaint against eight indigenous leaders who have dedicated their lives to defending the Amazon, including Franco Viteri (President of GONOAE), the presidents of the Achuar & Zapara nationalities, the president and vice president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and pioneering female leaders Patricia Gualinga from Sarayaku and Gloria Ushigua of the Zapara.
The complaint, which has led to a preliminary investigation by the Attorney General, accuses the leaders of "the crime of [making] threat[s]" during protests against the oil auction on November 28, and accuses them specifically of (1) Obstructing entry to buildings, (2) not having a permit to protest, (3) impeding the opening of the envelopes from the oil auction, and (4) injuries. Most disturbingly, it asks that they be imprisoned.
Humberto Cholango, President of CONAIE, spoke at a press conference yesterday in Quito. CONAIE released the following statement (translated by Amazon Watch):