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In Shuar territory: cross-border mining

In Shuar territory: cross-border mining

By Javier Rodríguez Pardo

The Nationalities and Peoples of the Amazon reject transnational open-pit mining and live mobilized in Zamora and Morona Santiago to defend their territories threatened by unconsulted mining projects. "Large-scale mining does not respect water rights, collective rights , the rights of nature, food sovereignty, Sumak Kawsay (good living) and therefore we will reject this type of mining ”, says Salvador Quisphe.


“The Shuar need all the possible information on transnational mining. The contributions that you bring us. Know what they did in other places. Also that they support us, that they come to the Amazon, that they be with us. This year I am going to order that mining be plebiscited in the Amazon. By then we want to have them here, with all the information and the experience they already have. "

Ecuador - 07/15/09 - Marcelino Chumpí is the first Shuar to preside over the Morona Santiago Prefecture, Morona canton of Ecuador's Amazon. With the word of this leader of the Shuar ethnic group, we began this report, collected in Macas (32,000 inhabitants), cantonal and provincial capital in the middle of the Amazon jungle, in an international meeting where we presented our presentation on “cross-border mining” (Within the framework of OCMAL, Observatory of Mining Conflicts of Latin America, July 6 / 9-2009). Marcelino Chumpí also demands the participation and support of the international community.

The Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH) is made up of 120,000 members of 500 nuclei or communities of families (centers), located in five eastern provinces of Ecuador: Morona Santiago, Zamora, Chinchipe, Pastaza and Napo. It was established on October 22, 1964 (ministerial agreement 2568) through a strong rejection of free trade agreements and mining through a memorable bulletin: “The Governing Council of the FICSH agreed the following:

a) Reject the unconsulted, undemocratic attitude of the National Government for the signing of the FTA.
b) Demand the immediate withdrawal of mining companies that are carrying out exploitations.
c) Do not allow the oil company to enter Blocks 23 and 24.
d) Require the National Government to consult the Ecuadorian people before signing the Free Trade Agreement.
e) To continue in solidarity with the National Mobilization of CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) indefinitely.
f) Schedule meetings with the Prefect of the Province and Councilors, with the Mayors, Councilors, with all organized social sectors and summon men, women, students and youth in general to generate a pressure force so that the government listens and accept the popular consultation.
g) Require the central government to allocate a larger budget so that as soon as possible, the construction of the Amazon Trunk, the Macas-Riobamba-Mendéz-Guarrumales highway, Macas-Macuma-Taisha to Yaupi, and for the completion of the bridge Pastaza river.
h) In accordance with the development of the national strike, de facto measures will be gradually applied, such as the blockade of the highways in our province. "

One of the first measures of the FICSH was the bilingual education system simultaneously with the Pachakutic movement "to capture spaces of political power in public functions", explained Jorge Unkuchuc. The current president of the federation is Pepe Akachú and he was in charge of closing the cross-border mining meeting, warning in the Shuar Chicham language (common to all Jíbaros) that they will not allow “the exploitation of mining in their territories. In the territories of the Cordillera del Cóndor we are the Shuar majority and we have always opposed mining. It is an area of ​​permanent conflicts - Akachú says - and we were never consulted. Through the FICSH, in 1998 they wanted to sign a mining socialization agreement with the Ecuacorriente company and - a threatening ruling - the leaders were dismissed by the rank and file, in assemblies, and today there are no oil or mining companies in Shuar territories ”. In addition to this majority ethnic group in the Amazon region, the Achuar, Andoas, Cofan, Huaoraní, Kichwa, Sarguro, Secoya, Shiwiar, Siona, Zaparo and Quijos also coexist. “In 2008 - recalls the president of the FICSH - a company was operating without a permit in the Tiwintsa canton, without an environmental impact report, they were illegal - he comments - they delivered rice and other food to convince the local Shuar. We expelled them, as we also did in San Carlos de Limón (San Juan Bosco canton) where the Ecuacorriente company acted under the protection of the police to extract witness samples from mining sites, but we prevented them from taking them. "

The message of Pepe Akachú, elected president of the Shuar federation a few months ago, concluded with a strong statement in support of the Shiwiar and Awajún (or Aguaruna) brothers, killed in the Bagua massacre, Peru, on June 5; Several ethnic groups share the Amazonian border: “When we condemned the massacre,” says Akachú, “the Correa government called us guerrillas and terrorists, who were going to defend our brothers with arms. We well know that we were the bloody front of the Ecuador-Peru wars, between brother peoples, now we must unite because the invading enemy is on both sides with governments that think the same, who want to bring in mining and oil companies. We have no borders. It is the same Amazon rainforest. The forest is our mother. And those who are on one side also have a family from this other. We must be vigilant. Our jungle is the lung of the world. "

As a result of these expositions but mainly of observations and dialogues that we held in Macas with the Shuar Arutam people (Shuar: person, Arutam: God). We venture some conclusions, supported by historical facts and actions that are projected inevitable:

The Bagua Massacre in the Peruvian Amazon

On June 5, 2009, the world was moved to learn of the massacre of numerous indigenous people from the Awajún and Wampís tribes, as well as the Shuar and Achuar tribes. Members of the Salesian church sitting at the scene tried to reach the Aguarunas, but the Peruvian police prevented them. At that time the area was a pandemonium of doctors, nurses, journalists and the armed forces. Deaths multiplied like a trail.

At first, there was talk of 25 corpses of Aguarunas and several of policemen. The bodies of the natives disappeared, quickly hidden by the repressors and thrown into the river, but several dozen indigenous people are estimated to have died. The government of Alan García tries to evade its responsibility, but specialists in the conflict argue that "the confrontation could have been avoided if the day before Congress had addressed the issue of decrees and laws on oil and mining exploitation in the Amazon rainforest" (Testimony of the church of Jaén-Marañón, June 9, 2009).

The Aguarunas (Awajún) and Huambisas (Wampìs) were persecuted and fled when they found themselves inferior to the government soldiers who carried heavy-caliber repetitive weapons. Part of the forces that intervened belong to the DINOES (specialized police force), while the natives carried only spears. Fourteen more indigenous people fell in flight. A testimony from the church of Jaén affirms that many crossed the Marañón river and took refuge in the parish of Bellavista. Others did it in the chapels of the two Baguas and the majority in the Amazon jungle. (A hundred wounded indigenous people were counted).

The next day, June 6, the massacre of the police took place, understandable in the culture of the Jíbaro peoples because they consider revenge as the only way to "defeat the spirit of the enemy and not be considered cowards." It is estimated that with spears, exposing their bodies, some indigenous people managed to snatch the weapons from the police, because in the wars in Peru and Ecuador they knew how to use them by serving as troops in both border governments. The indigenous counterattack, the ambush, is Alan García's excuse for labeling the deaths of the police officers as the origin of the massacre. But the policemen were shot with the same ammunition they carried for their AKM automatic rifles, which the natives forcibly took from them, while tear gas and various explosives dropped from helicopters opened indigenous heads and faces open. The iniquity of the battles was total.


The Salesian priest Juan de la Cruz told us that “the gap of distrust of the Amazonian natives towards the Peruvian State has become enormous. It is that the culture of the Awajún and Wampis Jivaro peoples is different even from the mestizo. The Aguarunas (Awajún) extend hands of friendship and are grateful and very supportive, but when they feel threatened, the ancestry of one of the most aggressive cultures of the Amazon emerges: it was only 80 years ago that they made contact with Western culture and less than 50 years ago. They left the Tsantsa (practice of reducing the heads of their enemies) and before the government's order to unblock by force the passage cut by more than 1,500 indigenous people of these Jivaro communities, the massacre took place. The action of the Awajún and Wampis prevented the passage of transports on the Belaunde Terry highway, in the sector called Curva del Diablo, between Cajamarca and Bagua in the Amazon, north of the Peruvian jungle. Accompanied by the Federation of Peasant Rounds of Jaén, there was another blockade of the same route at the Chamaya crossing, demanding plebiscites, the repeal of the laws that provide the common goods of indigenous peoples and the defense of biodiversity decimated by oil and mining companies voracious. A month and a half of protests with the paralysis of activities ended with one of the most aberrant massacres of indigenous peoples. In Bagua, the rebellious people destroyed the premises of the Aprista party while another group of indigenous people took over the pumping station of the Petroperú North Peruvian Pipeline, with 38 police hostages. The army rescued 22 police officers alive, while the government concealed the figures of the Awajún and Wampis communities that fell in the fateful 6th pumping station. There is no doubt that the fascist authoritarianism of García's Aprista government governs without reason and with violent repression.

One of the parties does not know to what extent there are peoples who will give their lives in defense of their ancestral territories. It is the government's responsibility to know that. The indigenous worldview of the Amazon is similar in this case to the southern Mapuche of the south of our continent: "The forest, rivers and animals are the home of spirits and to attack the environment is to attack their religion." The Pachamama dwells in its mountains, lakes and rivers. For the Awajún and Wampis peoples, revenge is a demand and not to comply with it is to forget their fallen beings. They fight back to take life for life, an ancestral belief of the Jivaro warrior people. They reacted in the only way they know.

Meanwhile, President Alan García calls them "dogs in the gardener": they do not eat or let them eat, and puts into practice seven decrees with which the Amazon cedes to oil, gas and mineral corporations, but also to logging companies and of agrofuels. He also said that "the ecologists are the communists of today" and that it is a foreign conspiracy of these organizations and of human rights associated with the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia (Hugo Chaves and Evo Morales).

Such terms remind us of the neoliberal speeches of the former environmental secretary of the Argentine government of Carlos Menem, María Julia Alsogaray, who did not hesitate to label environmentalists as "watermelon agents": green on the outside and red on the inside; With his mediocrity, it would not be difficult for him to qualify the Jivaro nation of the Amazon in the same way.

Personally, I think that a range of multiple actions opens where the government of Alan García, and himself in person, does not have them all with him. We maintain that the Bagua massacre, after having visited and interrogated indigenous leaders from the Ecuadorian region and those who entered from Peru, implies “another” beginning, new patterns of relationship with the inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest and greater work by teachers and Shuar professionals who are part of their communities. Shuar educators who participated in the Macas cross-border meeting thanked us for a few pages on the extractive methods of mining corporations, exclaiming: “he just gave me a rifle”.

The Shuar, for example, bet to dominate all levels of the government of Ecuador and is that they grow at a dizzying rate. They prepare, they send their children to Western colleges and universities, but they do not forget their own language and culture. Many are already recognized professionals; The current prefect of Morona Santiago, Marcelino Chumpi, has a degree in sociology and political science, a master's degree in governance, conflict management and a university professor, presides over some consultancies and is the representative of Ecuador before the Indigenous Fund.

It is common for many men to have more than five children and more than one wife; We have walked through Macas with a native who told us about his 21 children and five wives. At that rate, it will not be difficult to obtain a majority when choosing representatives. For now, the Shuar community in Ecuador has 31 mayors and 5 prefects at the national level, in addition to 25 parish councils in positions of public domain, officials, councils and councils. His 14 nationalities are preparing to reject more than 200 hydroelectric projects conceived by the Correa government for devastation and looting, 36 oil blocks and 842,000 hectares in concession to mining transnationals. They will demand the real application of the Constituent Assembly that Rafael Correa has already forgotten and where it is stated that Nature is a subject of law: "Despite Correa, we will fight to prevent the destruction of our Amazon," said another Ecuadorian from Saracuse, representative of Indigenous Popular Resistance, "we will demand the unconstitutionality of Correa's mining law, although it will only be with the action of our peoples that we can abolish it." Shuar Raúl Petsein directs the programs of the FICSH; bilingual transnational culture, win political spaces for infrastructure works, productive and sustainable activities in our territory and - he stressed - thanks to that we have a territory with fauna and flora ”.

The territories of the Amazon in the hands of the Shuar begin to carve out another destiny. The prefect Marcelino Chumpi, made public his commitment to plebiscite the province of Morona Santiago to declare it ecologically sustainable. He asked for our participation and for us to return with all the information we have, as well as professionals, mining engineers, hydrogeologists, etc., "to help us counteract - he said - the biased information from mining corporations."

Adjacent to Morona and the province of Azuay is the province of Zamora Chinchipe, south east of the Amazon. It is a mountainous region, an orography that differentiates it from the rest of the Amazon region. Salvador Quisphe Lozano (38 years old), is its elected Prefect (as we already mentioned). Like Chumpi, the Zamorano prefect also graduated as a sociologist, specializing in Quichua and English languages. He founded the current Provincial Federation of Saraguros de Zamora Chinchipe. He held the presidency of the Confederation of Quichua Peoples of Ecuador (1999-ECUARUNARI). His speeches in the electoral campaign focused on the defense of natural resources, however, some intransigent positions placed him favorably at the forefront of Ecuadorian politics. Salvador Quisphe was, along with Antonio Vargas (former president of CONAIE), who rose up through an indigenous revolt against the government of Jamil Mahuad, literally surrendered to the interests of the International Monetary Fund and the Ecuadorian banks; they overthrew Mahuad with indigenous and popular mobilizations. Later in 2008, Quisphe was an advisor to the Pachakutik Assemblymen bloc in the Montecristi National Constituent Assembly. In all his functions (even when he was a deputy) the elected Prefect of Zamora expressed priority for the defense of natural resources and the environment of Ecuador. His absolute rejection of the mining transnationals is known and for this reason he endured jail during the governments of Lucio Gutiérrez, Alfredo Palacios and Rafael Correa himself; governments that ceded the heritage that the Amazonian soil keeps to the voracity of mining corporations such as Corrientes Resourses or ECSA with copper from the Cordillera del Cóndor, and Aurelian and IMGOLD with gold. Salvador Quisphe won the last elections to a coalition created by the Correa government with Christian Socials and mining companies. By the way, he promoted a powerful pre-election message that he was able to repeat before us at the Macas cross-border meeting: “Neither the government of Rafael Correa, nor the mining companies, were interested in who would win the prefecture of Zamora Chichipe; What mattered to them is that Salvador Quisphe did not win because they know that with a prefect like me it will not be easy to take our wealth through a handful of Canadians ... Large-scale mining does not respect water rights, collective rights, rights of nature, food sovereignty, the Sumak Kawsay (good living) and therefore we will reject this type of mining ”.

With Quisphe we spoke in Macas about the future of the Amazon region and the mining companies that have already landed at the hands of President Correa.

Domingo Ankuask expresses himself in the same way. He first presents himself as a Shuar and then as president of CONFENIAE, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. It says that "the Nationalities and Peoples of the Amazon reject transnational open-pit mining and live mobilized in Zamora and Morona Santiago to defend their territories threatened by mining projects without consultations" and that "if the mining companies keep a few Shuar wage earners to That they divide their people and discredit them with their positions of dedication and betrayals, we have tens of thousands of Shuar who are willing to defend the territory and the culture of our children with their lives. We do not believe in the false promises of the mining companies and their front men ”.

We left Macas and the Amazon region with the feeling of having been before people determined to everything. The question immediately hovered around: Will Bagua be repeated in Ecuador?

For now, Rafael Correa's mining law is a virtual provocation and spit on the Montecristi Constituent Assembly. A law that grants unlimited time to mining activity and multiple facilities. But Correa's law far exceeds, in leonina, Alan García's decrees that caused the Bagua massacre. Today social, popular and indigenous organizations demand it as unconstitutional. The new mining law being discussed in Ecuador not only facilitates the activity of extractive transnationals but also delimits border areas with a space of 40 km. (and 12-mile maritime), where the entire Cordillera del Cóndor is subject to this National Security law, because in these classified and even secret territorial strips are precisely the mining concessions of Ecuador. Therefore, the law admits the presence and actions of the armed forces for national security reasons.

We ask ourselves once again, Will the massacre in Peru be repeated in Ecuador?

Javier Rodriguez Pardo -Macas, Amazonía - Quito, Ecuador, July 1/10, 2009. Chubut Antinuclear Movement (MACH), National Network of Environmental Action of Argentina (RENACE), Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC).


Video: March 5, 2015. Joe Henrich, UBC (May 2021).