With so much attention on this year on the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux people in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, it’s worth asking the world if the concern for indigenous people, water, nature, and sacred lands is great enough to extend to the land and people of the Amazon.
In what represents the greatest and most dangerous escalation of tensions between indigenous Ecuadorians and the government approved corporate business model of resource extraction across the continent of South America, the Shuar people in the southern region of Morona Santiago Province, Ecuador are locked in a desperate struggle with the military over mining licenses granted to a Chinese.
In defense of their land, their communities, and of the earth, Shuar people in the community of Nankints and surrounding areas are resisting the gross violation of human and natural rights by the Chinese mining consortium EXSA (Ecuacorriente and Explorcobres).
Ecuador’s government, led by President Rafael Correa, had been approving licenses for Chinese extraction ventures in some of the most pristine and biologically diverse areas on the planet.
Outside of a small faction of highly motivated indigenous people, nobody in the world is moving to stop the wanton destruction of the Amazon rainforest, considered the lungs of planet earth.
In preceding months, indigenous activists had occupied mining facilities owned by EXSA, which solicited a heavy police action where thousands of armed troops entered Shuar communities and physically evicted people from their homes, farms, and native lands.
Video of this sorely one-sided confrontation can be seen, here:
Tensions have been rising ever since as the conflict has expanded across the region with varying levels of violence being reported by both sides, signaling the possibility for a serious bloody confrontation, unless appropriate pressure can be brought to bear on Ecuadorian officials to convince them to work towards de-escalation.
Many concerned people feel that it is fast approaching a tipping point where major bloodshed, possibly a massacre, is imminent… much like the recent stand-off at Standing Rock.
“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.” ~JORGE HERRERA, PRESIDENT OF CONAIE
Activist organization Amazon Watch has just released this dispatch:
“WE UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION TO HAVE ESCALATED AFTER THE FORCED REMOVAL OF SHUAR FAMILIES FROM THEIR ANCESTRAL TERRITORY TO MAKE WAY FOR MINING OPERATIONS THAT WERE INITIATED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSULTATION WITH THE COMMUNITY, AS STIPULATED BY INTERNATIONAL NORMS AND JURISPRUDENCE, EVEN THOUGH THE SHUAR REQUESTED DIALOGUE ABOUT THE PROJECT ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS IN PREVIOUS MONTHS.” [SOURCE]
Furthermore, the Indigenous Environmental Network reports on the increasing uncertainty and the prospect of greater violence:
“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.” [Source]
Local Shuar people are being called ‘terrorists’ by the government for duly resisting mining operations in their territory with direct civil action including the occupation of corporate camps and the detention of federal soldiers.
In striking similarity to the public relations war over Standing Rock, activists and concerned citizens have taken to social media and the internet to call on the people of Ecuador and of the world to stand with the Shuar people as they face direct corporate/military repression.
Using the Twitter hasthag #Nankints, an attempt is being made to rally international support for this cause, another case of the people vs. the combined power of state and corporations.
This tweet reads:
“WE CANNOT LEAVE THE SHUAR PEOPLE ALONE IN THIS UNEVEN FIGHT. TODAY MORE THAN EVEN WE NEED TO SUPPORT THE ECUADORAN PEOPLE.”
— Severino Sharupi (@Seve_Sharupi) December 19, 2016
In this tweet, a photo of military tanks bound for the conflict is shared, along with the comment:
“War tanks being transferred to M. Santiago. It’s very clear where the violence comes from. All responsibility will be president Rafael Correa’s.”
— Severino Sharupi (@Seve_Sharupi) December 16, 2016
Shockingly, the war against resource mining in the Amazon is a major conflict extending across the entire continent of South America.
In 2013, aerial footage of the unholy destruction being caused by illegal mines in the Guacamayo region of the river Madre de Dios in Peru, offering perspective to the scale of gold mining operations in the region.
Furthermore, a short clip of the documentary film, Daughter of the Lake, captures both the industrial scale of the destruction taking place in Peru, as well as the heart-breaking human suffering being inflicted on native people by the hands of government and corporations.
The war against legal and illegal mining and resource extraction operations is massive, and growing each year.
The wanton, careless, brutal rape of Mother Earth for corporate and individual profit is everyone’s problem, for if we don’t feel the immediate effects of this in our lives today, we all certainly in years to come. Beyond Standing Rock, the world is in desperate need of justice.