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NEWS: Protest march in defence of water arrives in Quito, Ecuador

On March 11, we noted in a campaign blog an ENS news report that, “Several hundred members of the largest Ecuadorian indigenous organization began marching today to the capital, Quito to protest new mining in their territory. They expect to arrive in Quito on March 22. The indigenous march started from Yantzaza where (a mining company) has been authorized to develop a large open pit copper mine the first large scale mine under a new government mining policy. As people gathered to start the march, provincial prefect and indigenous leader Salvador Quishpe reiterated their concerns for aboriginal communities where mining pollutes formerly pristine lands and rivers. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (is) demanding that the government pass legislation to regulate water management and land redistribution.”

The mining company developing the open pit mine was British Columbia based Corriente Resources Inc. That company is now Chinese-owned and “will begin stripping copper as early as next year from a hillside in Shuar country…” Another major contract for a silver mine in Ecuador is reportedly expected to be signed with a Canadian company within months.

Today, in a full-page Associated Press article in the Globe and Mail, it is being reported that, “More than 1,000 indigenous protesters reached Ecuador’s capital on Thursday after a two-week, 700-kilometre march from the Amazon to oppose plans for large-scale mining projects on their lands.”

“Pepe Acacho, who wore a yellow-and-red feathered headdress during the long days of the hike, said he was undeterred by criminal sabotage charges that he faces from leading a 2009 protest. …Mr. Acacho was president of Ecuador’s powerful Shuar federation in October, 2009, when he led a bridge blockade in his home city of Macas to protest Mr. Correa’s refusal to grant Ecuador’s native peoples the right to veto mining projects on their lands. While the Shuar are recognized as owners of the land, the government owns the mineral rights. A teacher was shot and killed during the protest. It is not clear by whom, though authorities blamed the Indians, and Mr. Acacho and two other indigenous leaders were arrested. He was jailed for eight days for terrorism and sabotage and then released pending trial. The terrorism charge was dropped.”

“‘We don’t want to destabilize the government, never,’ Humberto Cholango, head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said. ‘What we want is for the government to hear our voice of protest against large-scale mining and in defence of our water.'”

A Christian Science Monitor report adds, “Hundreds of people from Ecuador’s Andean and Amazonian indigenous groups marched into Quito today, after a 14-day trek across the country. Dressed in colorful traditional clothing, they are protesting against the government’s large-scale mining projects, which they say go against (Ecuador’s president Rafael) Correa’s electoral promise to protect the rights of nature, and could impact their access to clean water. …Indigenous leader Salvador Quishpe says the government did not consult with local populations before approving the project – something many claim is required by the constitution. Quishpe says there are 227 water sources inside the mining project’s zone, and locals are worried they will all be contaminated through the extraction process. …(But) the government hopes to attract $3 billion in mining investments by next year – a significant contribution to its economy. ‘It is a lie that good mining destroys water,’ Correa said.”

The Council of Canadians is organizing a ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ this June 1-3 in Vancouver. As plans for this conference develop, updates will be posted at http://canadians.org/shoutout.