The Ecuador National Police’s second attempt to talk to leaders of the Sarayaku community about three fugitives went much more smoothly than the first attempt three weeks earlier.
Two police helicopters landed Friday at Sarayaku in Pastaza Province without incident. In the first visit to the Amazonian village, the helicopters were surrounded by Sarayaku men, many carrying guns and spears, and were forced to leave.
Interior Minister José Serrano said the oepration proceeded without incident and that police were able to ask questions regarding the whereabouts of national assemblyman Cléver Jiménez and his associates Fernando Villavicencio and Carlos Figueroa. The three are charged with slandering President Rafael Correa and have been sentenced to prison.
According to Police commander Rodrigo Suarez, the Sarayaku said that the wanted men have left the area, not wanting to involve the residents in their legal problems.
Following the first visit, there was talk of the police entering the town with force, and some members of Sarayaku saying they were prepared to fight.
Sarayaku leader Heriberto Gualinga complained that police entered Sarayaku territory without prior notice. “We would have appreciated an announcement that they were coming,” he said. He added that most of the village’s men were out on a hunt and that only women and children were there when the helicopters landed.
On May 8, Correa had announced that the police would make another attempt to enter the community and said he would declare a state of emergency if there was trouble.
Serrano and Suarez said they would continue looking for the three fugitives and speculated that they may be hiding with other indigenous groups, including the Shuars and Achuars.
Photo caption: Sarayaku leader Heriberto Gualinga addressing the press.