Tensions mount in deadly dispute over Chinese copper mine east of Cuenca

Dec 22, 2016 | 4 comments

Ecuadorian national police have arrested the president of an indigenous organization, charging him with inciting violence in the protest against a large Chinese mining project in Morona Santiago Province.

A Tuesday march in Quito supporting Shuar protesters.

According to police, about a dozen officers conducted an early morning raid on the headquarters of Federation of Shuar Centers in Sucúa, arresting Agustín Wachapá.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), has condemned the raid, claiming that more than 100 police backed by military personnel were in involved in the operation.

“We consider this to be an attack on the integrity of indigenous people and organizations of Ecuador and hold the government accountable for the life of our brother Agustín Guachapá,” Conaie said in a statement. It added that the raid used excessive force, destroying equipment and documents owned by the Shuar Centers.

Guachapá is being held in a Latacunga jail.

Conaie said it planned meetings on Thursday and Friday to consider its response to government actions as well as protests against the massive copper mine, located about 50 miles east of Cuenca.

President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency last week in Morona Santiago Province following the death of a police officer during a mine protest. Conaie and Shuar leaders condemned the death and said those responsible were not members of their groups.

On Tuesday, the government’s interior ministry moved to shut down a non-profit environmental organization that it said supported the mine protest. The government said that Acción Ecológica (AE) was sympathetic to protesters attempting to close the mine and had violated its charter.

A spokesman for AE said that the organization had played no role in the protests. “We do, however, object to the environmental damage this project will impose,” said Esperanza Martínez. “This mine will destroy almost 500 square kilometers of Ecuador’s natural heritage.”

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