August 9, 2020

Indigenous people of the Amazon of Ecuador demand consultation of extractive plans



Half a hundred indigenous people from the Ecuadorian Amazon arrived in Quito on Thursday to demand that the State authorities respect their right to prior consultation in extractive projects (oil and mining) and comply with judicial decisions that favor them.

Dressed in traditional clothes and painted their faces, the Amazonian Indians went to the Constitutional Court, the highest control body of the Magna Carta, and the Comptroller (State Court of Accounts), to demand compliance with internal and international regulations on The rights of indigenous peoples.

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the protesters, explained to Efe that his arrival in the capital seeks to respect indigenous rights and nature, affected by oil and mining activities.

“We are tired that they always tell us things and nothing is done,” said the president of the Waorani Council in the Amazon province of Pastaza, in the east of the country.

“We don’t want extractivism,” which damages the environment, because the Amazonian people are the ones who “take care of nature, our home,” added Nenquimo.

The indigenous leader assured that she does not trust the word of the authorities, but indicated that the Amazonian peoples will wait a reasonable time to observe “if the promises are fulfilled now.”

In addition, he indicated that if the authorities do not fulfill their promises that indigenous rights be respected, protest days could be called.

On the other hand, María Espinosa, lawyer of the indigenous people and defender of human rights, explained that the actions carried out today in Quito seek that the State assume its constitutional role of protection of the inhabitants and of nature.

He recalled that, in addition to demanding that the right to prior consultation be applied and informing communities affected by extractive projects, Amazonian indigenous people request that judicial decisions that recognize the violation of rights and the self-determination of peoples in specific cases of exploitation of natural resources in the jungle.

In April of last year, a court ruling in Pastaza acknowledged that the right to free and informed prior consultation and to the self-determination of the indigenous communities of the area, in processes of oil exploitation, was violated.

A similar case occurred in the Cofán community, in the Amazon province of Sucumbíos, although, according to the indigenous people, these sentences have not been applied because of the authorities and institutions responsible for making them effective.

Espinosa said that with the arrival of the indigenous group in Quito it has been requested that investigations be initiated to determine the responsibilities for the behavior of officials and institutions in these cases, which eventually end up affecting the communities and the State itself.

Likewise, said the lawyer, there have been new cases such as those related to mining concessions in the province of Napo, neighboring Pastaza, as well as in Zamora Chinchipe, all in the Amazon.

Espinosa said that the authorities of the Constitutional Court and the Comptroller’s Office have offered to act, but remarked that these kinds of “beautiful speeches” have already seen them in the past

“We have been told that (the authorities) are worried … We must wait for the actions,” Espinosa said, noting that, “until now, the Amazon remains structurally abandoned.”

He also said that the Government of President Lenin Morreno “has an (economic) agenda based on extractivism, in the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources.”

“As long as that agenda continues to be imposed in an unqualified way on the life of the people, the Amazon will continue to be the place where oil and mining come from, but where people are still condemned” who inhabit the jungle, said Espinosa.

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