[News] Ecuador: Indigenous Radio Station Spared Closure

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 29 11:06:21 EST 2010

Ecuador: Indigenous Radio Station Spared Closure

Written by Jennifer Moore
Friday, 29 January 2010 10:09

On Tuesday, Ecuador's National Telecommunications Commission 
retracted a December decision to shut down an indigenous radio 
station. The commission, known as CONATEL, had previously determined 
that the "The Voice of Arutam" was responsible for inciting 
indigenous protesters to violence during a strike in September 2009 
that cost the life of an indigenous bilingual teacher, Bosco Wisum.

One indigenous politician called the earlier decision "a Christmas 
present to Canadian mining companies" operating in the southern 
Amazonian region. Companies hoping to open up the area to gold and 
copper mining, such as Vancouver-based Corriente Resources, were the 
focal point of local protests in September. Corriente recently 
announced its sale for $653 million USD to a Chinese joint venture 
between the Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holdings Co. Ltd. and 
the China Railway Construction Corporation.

"The Voice of Arutam" is a Shuar indigenous radio station believed to 
be the only broadcaster critically informing listeners about the 
possible impacts of projected oil and mining extraction in the 
southern Amazon. Its bilingual programming in the Shuar language and 
Spanish has also provided important services to remote indigenous 
communities for decades. Arutam is the name of the Shuar spiritual guide.

CONATEL modified its position in response to criticisms issued last 
week by a joint government and indigenous committee that is 
investigating circumstances leading up to the death of Wisum. The 
joint committee's public declaration concluded that based upon the 
available evidence "it is not possible to determine whether or not 
the editorial line of the radio station has promoted violence."

The reversal will likely diffuse immediate tensions between the 
government and the national indigenous movement led by the 
Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which 
had threatened mobilizations should the broadcaster be closed down. 
Differences over extractive industry expansion have contributed to 
friction between the administration of President Rafael Correa and 
the indigenous movement for the last two years.

CONATEL reports that it is now turning over the evidence to the 
National General Attorney to consider whether or not Shuar leaders 
such as Pepe Acacho, President of the Interprovincial Shuar 
Federation (FICSH) and legal representative of the radio station "The 
Voice of Arutam," might personally bear any responsibility for 
violence which occurred in September.

Lawyer Julio Sarango, who has been defending the radio station, 
called CONATEL's decision "sensible,"  but expressed concern that 
Shuar leaders might now face political persecution.

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