Five national police officers were kidnapped near the Río Blanco gold and silver mine near Molleturo on Saturday and their patrol car was destroyed. Investigators say the crime was committed by “anti-mining terrorists” who are being sought by special operations judicial police.
The police had been called to a disturbance near the shuttered mine in the Cajas Mountains when they were ambushed by a group of masked men armed with guns and knives. The kidnappers forced the five men from their car before pushing it into a ravine where it was later burned.
Two of the officers escaped but the other three were stripped of their uniforms and beaten and one officer suffered what appeared to be a gunshot wound. A rescue team found the injured men Sunday beside the Miguir-Cochapamba Road and transported them to a Cuenca hospital. None of the injuries are life-threatening, doctors say.
The kidnapping occurred on the day of a community minga during which residents erected “Protected communal area” and “Water not gold” signs on mine property and cleaned up debris left from protests that closed the mine in June 2018. The government recently announced it intended to reopen the mine which is operated by the Chinese Ecuagoldmining Junefield Corporation.
Some Molleturo residents claim that the mine was polluting their crops and pastureland despite claims by Ecuagoldmining that there was no water contamination. An organizer of the Saturday minga, who asked not to be named, said residents would close the mine again if it reopens. “The communeros and communeras of Molleturo are in solidarity against all Chinese mining interests,” he said.
The organizer said he did not know the identity of the kidnappers.