A day after President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency in Morona Santiago Province, indigenous activists are demanding that the United Nations, the Organization of American States, or the Catholic church mediate a conflict surrounding a large Chinese copper mine.
“The government of Ecuador is reacting with an iron fist and we are requesting that an outside party be summoned to help find a solution to the crisis,” said Jorge Herrera at a Thursday news conference. Herrera heads the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). CONAIE is being backed by other indigenous organizations, including ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAE.
Correa issued the emergency order Wednesday following a protest at the Explorcobres (EXSA) mining camp in which a policeman was killed and seven more were injured. According to Herrera, more than a dozen Shuar protesters will injured in the conflict.
Correa called the protesters “common criminals who will be brought to justice.” Herrera says that the mining operation, operated EXSA, is illegal and an encroachment on indigenous lands. “This mine is a vast open-pit that is destroying the environment of our ancestral lands and we are committed to stopping it,” said Blanca Chancoso of ECUARUNARI. “The government is violating its own constitution to allow this destruction because of its debt to the Chinese.”
Chinese employees of EXSA claim they receiving death threats from local communities near the mine and are asking the government for stepped-up protection.
Correa’s emergency order allows the government to suspend the freedom of speech and movement of those it considers responsible for inciting violence.
Herrera did not say whether he has made contact with the UN or OAS.