On 20 December 2016, the Ecuadorian Environment Minister threatened to close down the NGO Acción Ecológica. The threat is in relation to Acción Ecológica’s raising awareness about the environmental impacts of a planned mega-copper mine on the lands of the Shuar indigenous people. The police raided the office of the Shuar Federation, detaining Agustín Wachapa, the Federation’s president.
The Shuar community of Nankints in Morona Santiago province was evicted in August 2016 to make way for the proposed mining operations of the Chinese company Explorcobres SA. The mine would be the second largest copper mine in the world.
The Shuar community were not consulted and did not give their consent to the mining operations.
The area is increasingly militarised. In November, members of the Shuar people attempted to reclaim their territory. Several people were injured in clashes with the police and military guarding the mining camp.
Last week, another confrontation took place which left one policeman dead and several injured. The Ecuadorian government decreed a state of emergency in the province. Six of the Shuar people have been detained. A petition on change.org calls for dialogue and for respect of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
The day before Acción Ecológica was threatened with closure, dozens of organisations and networks wrote to the Ecuadorian authorities urging an immediate end to the militarisation and the state of emergency in Morona Santiago.
Amazon Watch has also set up a petition:
Acción Ecológica’s statement about the threatened closure is below, and below that a sign on letter. Acción Ecológica has responded to the closure threat with a letter to the Minister for the Environment (in Spanish).
Regarding the Ecuadorian Government’s Move to Close Acción Ecológica – URGENT PRESS RELEASE
Acción Ecológica denounces the request made by Diego Torres Saldaña, Deputy Minister of Internal Security, to the Minister of Environment to set in motion an administrative procedure that would dissolve our organization on the ground that we have deviated from the aims for which we were constituted.
The Ministry of the Interior claims that this administrative decision (MDI-VSI-2016-00033) was taken because we were alerting the public to “the serious environmental impacts and the ecosystem that would result from the extractive activity” in the Cordillera del Condor – the location of a Chinese mining operation – and to the violation of the rights of indigenous communities living in this area.
Yet these are precisely the objectives at which Acción Ecológica aims. Article 2 of our regulating principles states that our organization exists to “promote the defense of the rights of nature in order to ensure the preservation of a healthy environment and to achieve the right of good living (buen vivir).”
We reject the assertion of the Ministry of the Environment (MDI-CGAJ-2016-261) that we have violated national law. We have been scrupulous in our compliance with the law and our actions are in full harmony with Goal 7.12.b of the National Plan for Good Living 2013-2017, which states that it is a priority “to optimize participatory environmental management and social control for the conservation of terrestrial and marine biodiversity, through processes of community integration that consolidate a culture of peace and sustainability in territories under special arrangements, as well as in the Amazon region”, as well as with other articles of the Plan.
The position of Acción Ecológica regarding the conflict in the Cordillera del Condor is and has been to request that a Commission of Peace and Harmony with Nature be established. We believe that in order to achieve peace, we need a complete and common understanding about what is actually happening in the territories of the Cordillera.
Acción Ecológica has been closed once before, in 2009, when the government used the same arguments it is using now. However, following clarifications as well as a national and international outcry on the part of thousands of people against the unjust order to close our organization, the issue was resolved in our favour and we were able to reopen.
Today we are again receiving messages of solidarity for which we are most grateful, from social organizations, movements, guilds, unions, associations, defenders of human rights, environmental organizations, feminists, and others. It is with this kind of support that we believe we will be able to defeat the arbitrariness and illegitimacy of this new move to close Acción Ecológica.
Acción Ecológica has worked to defend nature for 30 years. It is also an integral part of the International Federation for Human Rights (usually known by its French acronym FIDH), as we are convinced that it is only by defending the territories that support the reproduction of life that human rights can be guaranteed.
We will continue to defend the rights of both humans and nature. As the saying goes, “we are like the grass of the páramo that, even when pulled out, returns to grow again.”
Quito, December 20, 2016
AGAINST THE DOUBLE EXTRACTIVIST HUNTING
December 21, 2016
Dr Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador,
We would like to express our concern about the progress of mega-mining in Amazonian indigenous Shuar territory, where the community of Nankints in the Morona Santiago province was evicted in August 2016 to give way to the construction of a mining camp by the Chinese company Explorcobres SA.
It is known that this mining project is progressing without the mandatory prior consultation or consent from the affected communities, and that the Shuar communities have filed different legal actions without being heard by their government.
In recent days, in the light of the claims of the Shuar community, the levels of conflict with the transnational mining company have escalated in such a way that there is already one dead and several injured. In your weekly TV show Enlace Ciudadano of December 17, you disqualified the Amazonian indigenous people saying that “it is already about paramilitary and semi-criminal groups …” This criminalization discourse was accompanied by the decree of State of Exception and immediate militarization of the Shuar territories, for which your government launched a real hunt against community leaders and members, in a clear illustration of extractivist violence.
In this context of violation of human rights, your government has just launched a second hunt, attacking the NGO Acción Ecológica, known nationally and internationally for its defense of the collective rights of peoples and the rights of nature, threatening with shutting down and dissolving this organization, giving in to pressure from the Chinese transnationals because Acción Ecológica supports the Shuar people.
We, the undersigned, intellectuals and activists of Latin America, repudiate the extractivist violence of the Ecuadorian government and express our solidarity with the struggle of the Shuar people and with the defense of human rights carried out by Ecological Action, demanding that your government immediately stops this double hunt.
Please send your signature to: firstname.lastname@example.org