The Shuar community of Nankints in Ecuador’s Southern Amazon region was evicted in August 2016 to make way for a Chinese copper mega-mining project. The mining company, through a court order, has claimed these indigenous territories without prior consultation or consent from the affected communities, who have lived there for hundreds of years. The land allocated for the project covers over 41,000 hectares and the forced evacuation of other Shuar communities is expected.
Since the August eviction, the county of San Juan Bosco has been militarized to quell protest. In November, several Shuar people attempted to reclaim the indigenous territory of Nankints within the San Juan Bosco county. Clashes broke out with police and military personnel guarding the mining camp, leaving several injured. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), called for dialogue with the Government to avoid further confrontations but no resolution was reached.
On Wednesday December 14th, a new confrontation took place in the mining camp, leaving one police officer dead and others wounded. After these events, the Ecuadorian Government announced a state of exception throughout the Morona Santiago province, stripping residents of the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and inviolability of the home, among others. The Government also deployed over 700 elite soldiers and policemen, military tanks, trucks and helicopters to San Juan Bosco to join the existing military presence there. According to witness testimony, army rifle blasts have caused women and children to seek refuge in the mountains. Military personnel and police are patrolling the streets in armoured vehicles. The community is in a state of terror.
A statement from the President of CONAIE, Jorge Herrera, reads: “We fear that the direction [the Ecuadorian President] has taken will lead to a massacre of Ecuadorians, and it is the absolute priority of CONAIE to avoid this. We are strongly requesting that the Church and international organizations intervene and mediate to find a dialogue that does not deepen and aggravate the existing conflict.”
Dr Carlos Perez, President of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) has issued a statement expressing “solidarity with the family of our brother, the fallen police officer, and those wounded, who are also our brothers, knowing that no extractive project, no matter how profitable, nor any amount of bloodshed is a justification for violence. We demand a rigorous judicial investigation into the acts of violence to find those responsible for these criminal acts”.
Dr Perez went on to demand an investigation into the unsolved murders of Bosco Bisuma, Fredy Taisha and José Tendenza, leaders of the anti-mining resistance movement in Ecuador, killed in 2009, 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Protests in solidarity with the Shuar people have been mobilized in cities across Ecuador.
For more information about mining in Ecuador, see the documentary “Paradise Under Threat: The Mirador Mine in the Condor”. The film presents information about the Chinese copper mine and its potential impacts on the environment; shows the biological and cultural diversity that is at risk; and presents some of the perspectives of the local people and other Ecuadorians about the mine project. The trailer can be viewed below.
To see Dr Carlos Perez talking about why he fights against mega-mining projects in Ecuador, see this short interview from 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irw-d-xhOlA&feature=youtu.be