[News] A New Wave of Criminalization Against Social Movements in Ecuador

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 15 18:10:46 EDT 2010

A New Wave of Criminalization Against Social Movements in Ecuador

Written by Jennifer Moore
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 17:51

Ecuador's anti-mining and indigenous movements 
are denouncing renewed attempts by the Correa 
Administration to criminalize dissent. Over 
thirty people, including top leaders of the 
national indigenous movement, are being 
investigated for allegations including terrorism 
and sabotage as a result of their participation 
in protests related to controversies over gold 
and copper mining, as well as water and indigenous rights.

President of the Confederation of Indigenous 
Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) Marlon Santí 
and several others were summoned just days after 
a Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) was 
held in northern Ecuador at which indigenous 
rights were at the top of the agenda. The CONAIE 
protested the June 24 and 25 summit, questioning 
why ALBA would address indigenous rights without 
representation from important indigenous organizations such as theirs.

Coming on the heels of an eleven-day march from 
the Amazon to the capital of Quito in 
commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the 
first major indigenous uprising in Ecuador, 
several thousand people participated. They wanted 
to deliver a communiqué to indigenous President 
Evo Morales of Bolivia who was present for the 
ALBA meeting, detailing their concerns about 
being excluded, as well as worries about 
market-based solutions to climate change and 
continued dependence on extractive industry that 
President Correa is pursuing and which they fear 
puts at risk at risk the lives and livelihoods of 
affected indigenous and campesino communities. 
When it became clear that they would not be able 
to meet with Morales, they retreated and gathered in a nearby park.

According to lawyer and professor Mario Melo, who 
cites documents pertaining to the preliminary 
investigation, Santí and others have been accused 
of terrorism and sabotage for breaking through a 
police line and for a pair of handcuffs that 
allegedly went missing during the scuffle. 
Incredulous that this would be enough to warrant 
a charge of terrorism, Melo believes that the 
criminal investigations are meant “to intimidate 
and demobilize the organizations and their leaders.” (1)

National Assembly Member of the indigenous 
Pachakutik party Lourdes Tibán also questioned 
how it is possible that the indigenous leaders 
could be charged in this way when the National 
Assembly just passed a resolution to declare June 
21st a civic day of commemoration for “the great 
contributions that the indigenous movement has 
made over the last twenty years.” She recalls a 
situation from 2007 in which a provincially 
elected leader from the Pachakutik party was 
similarly charged following protests related to 
redistribution of oil revenue and then later found innocent. (2)

Marlon Santí calls the rationale for the 
investigations “ridiculous,” but affirms that he 
will participate in the legal process. (3) He 
adds, however, that “there are underlying issues 
to be debated and we won't be silenced by these 
investigations.” (4) Tensions between the 
national government and the national indigenous 
movement have been building over the last couple 
of years. In recent months, the CONAIE, in 
alliance with other indigenous organizations 
including the National Federation of Indigenous, 
Campesino and Afro-Ecuadorian Organizations 
(FENOCIN) and the Ecuadorian Federation of 
Evangelical Indigenous (FEINE), have been in an 
ongoing dispute with the national government and 
legislative assembly over a proposed new water law. (5)

For his part, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa 
accuses the indigenous leaders of violence, 
saying, “It's impossible to dialogue with [such 
people].” Although Correa spearheaded the 
Declaration of Otavalo, (6) signed by ALBA 
leaders, which promises to build societies that 
respect the rights of indigenous peoples and 
those of African descent and which ratifies their 
commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of 
Indigenous Peoples, he dismisses CONAIE's 
demands, saying they just want to bring him down. 
He warned CONAIE's leadership against 
interpreting their charges as political 
persecution and says, “Here, like in Venezuela 
and Bolivia, there are various groups conspiring against our governments.” (7)

The number of people facing serious criminal 
investigations, however, has grown in recent 
weeks. In addition to national indigenous leaders 
under investigation, about thirty activists and 
community leaders in central and southern 
provinces are being processed for similarly grave 
allegations in relation to longstanding conflicts 
with Canadian- and now Chinese-financed gold and 
mining companies. In two cases, charges of 
terrorism and sabotage pertain to recent protests 
against gold mining operations. Another case from 
2006-2007 involving twenty activists was also reopened.

Going back on past advances

The situation represents a step back for the 
small Andean nation that enshrined the right to 
protest, rights for nature and the right to water 
within its 2008 Political Constitution. It is 
also fitting to recall that the National 
Constituent Assembly granted amnesty in March 
2008 to over 350 activists facing a range of 
criminal charges as a result of their opposition 
to mining, oil and hydroelectric projects. 
Political allies, however, such as then President 
of the National Constituent Assembly Alberto 
Acosta, who helped bring about the amnesty and 
who backed struggles for expanded rights within 
the constitution, have grown distant from 
Correa's Alianza Paíz (Country Alliance) political movement.

Ecuadorian human rights and environmental 
organizations deemed March 14, 2008, when the 
National Constituent Assembly issued the amnesty, 
a “transcendental day.” (8) The then Constituent 
Assembly President Alberto Acosta called the 
decision “a very clear message that the 
manipulation of the justice system in order to 
exert pressure on certain social processes cannot 
be permitted.” (9) The official press release 
referred to activists as “compatriots” who are 
“leading protests in defense of their communities 
and nature, in the face of natural resource 
exploitation projects.” (10) Today, Alberto 
Acosta, also past Minister of Mines and Energy 
under Correa, calls accusations of terrorism and 
sabotage against activists, “tremendously 
shameful,” adding that “they have no basis in 
justice or a democratic judicial system.” (11)

Also under renewed threat are organizations that 
support social movements who question the 
country's economic development model. In March 
2009, the Quito-based environmental organization 
Acción Ecológica (Ecological Action) had its 
doors temporarily closed when the government 
revoked its legal status, sparking national and 
international outcry. More recently, during a 
national radio address earlier this month, Correa 
issued a new warning to organizations that 
receive international support: “These little 
gringos (North Americans) come here with their 
bellies full to convince the indigenous that they 
shouldn't extract oil, nor operate mines. They 
give them money, achieve their goal and then go, 
leaving the indigenous more poor than ever 
before.” Correa suggested that those who 
intervene in the indigenous movement's struggle 
could be expelled from the country. (12)

Correa's suggestion that Ecuador will be left 
impoverished without mining echoes earlier public 
relations campaigns by Canadian-financed mining 
companies in Ecuador, such as Corriente Resources 
(recently sold to a Chinese joint venture) whose 
“Fair Deal” and “Poor without Copper” slogans 
were once broadcast on prime-time television and 
distributed with in national publications. The 
difference today is that Correa promotes greater 
state control and redistribution of benefits.

Vague promises that gold and copper mining will 
be environmentally responsible, however, still 
fail to reassure indigenous and non-indigenous 
communities at the local level who are concerned 
about the potential impacts of gold and copper 
mining on forests and water, and thus on their 
lives and livelihoods. In other words, they 
believe that with mining they could be 
impoverished. “I’ve heard Rafael Correa’s 
discourse,” said Marlon Santí in a recent 
interview with Canadian researcher Jeffrey R. 
Webber, “that we’re sitting on a mountain of gold 
and that it would be stupid not to exploit it. 
But this is short-term thinking, thinking only in 
the present. What about our future?” (13)

Entrenches conflicts

Unfortunately, rather than helping to address 
points of difference over natural resource 
management between the indigenous movement and 
the central government, and between local 
conflicts and national economic imperatives, the 
current wave of criminal investigations against 
social movement leaders like Santí represents a 
further entrenchment of these conflicts. With the 
balance of power currently in state and company 
hands, whereas mining companies for instance are 
guaranteed protection of their operations under 
the new mining law, these accusations serve to 
marginalize the voices of indigenous and 
campesino organizations that historically have 
had to struggle for any rights that they have 
won, urging them to keep fighting.

Jennifer Moore is a Canadian independent 
journalist who has been reporting from Ecuador for several years.

    * Melo, Mario, 1 July 2010, “Organizaciones 
Indígenas ecuatorianas en indagación previa por el delito de terrorismo”
    * CONAIE, July 1st 2010, “Pachakutik denuncia 
criminalización del movimiento indígena”
    * CONAIE, July 1st 2010, Video recording of 
press conference; 

    * CONAIE, July 7th 2010, Video recording of 
press conference in Quito, Ecuador; 

    * See Upside Down World, May 7th 2010, 
“Ecuador: The Debate in the Streets” 
and Upside Down World, May 18th 2010, “Decision 
delayed over Ecuador's new water law” 
for more information
    * ALBA, June 25th 2010, “Declaración de 
Otavalo: Cumbre ALBA-TCP con Autoridades 
Indigenas y Afrodescendientes”; 

    * El Ciudadano, June 26th 2010, “Presidente 
Correa; El diálogo está agotado con la dirigencia 

    * Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU), 
Accion Ecologica and the Regional Foundation for 
Human Rights Assistance (INREDH), March 14th 2008, “Carta de Reconocimiento”
    * Alberto Acosta, March 13th 2008, Press conference
    * Sala de Prensa Jose Peralta, March 14th 
2008, Boletin 633, “Alrededor de 357 ciudadanos 
se beneficiaron de este recurso”
    * Upside Down World. Jeffrey R. Webber, July 
12th 2010, “Ecuador's Economy Under Rafael 
Correa: Twenty-First Century Socialism or the New 
Extractivism? - An Interview with Alberto 

    * Hoy, July 10th 2010, “ONGs que intervengan 
en política serán expulsadas, dice Correa”; 

    * Global Research, Jeffrey R. Webber, July 
13th 2010, “Indigenous Struggle, Ecology, and 
Capitalist Resource Extraction in Ecuador”; 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20100715/8357f436/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list