Ecuador: Indigenous leader prominent in environmental activism murdered


Murder of indigenous leader prominent in environmental activism; Government pushes for shift to electric cookers; PAIS Alliance publish goals for 2015


Indigenous leader prominent in environmental activism murdered

On 2nd December José Tendetza, former vice-president of the Federation of the Shuar indigenous group in the region of Zamora (Federación Shuar de Zamora), was discovered murdered in the Chuchumbletza river near the community of Yanoa.

Tendetza had been a leader in the movement to oppose the plans of Chinese mining group Ecuacorriente to begin extraction of copper and molybdenum in the area of the Cordillera del Cóndor.

Its critics say the project, which forms part of President Correa’s government’s push to encourage the exploitation of minerals, would destroy 450,000 acres of forest. This devastation would take place in an area that hosts incredible biodiversity, and which is home to the Shuar people, the second-largest indigenous group in Ecuador.

Tendetza had planned to travel to Lima to voice his protest at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, which took place in the city from 1st to 14th December.

Members of the Shuar community have stated concerns over the motive behind Tendetza’s murder, and the possibility that authorities were complicit.

Domingo Ankuash, ex-President of the Federación Shuar de Zamora, said, “This is a camouflaged crime. In Ecuador, multinational companies are invited by the government and get full state security from the police and the army. The army and police don’t provide protection for the people; they don’t defend the Shuar people. They’ve been bought by the company.”

He added, “the Ecuadorian Government without asking anyone, gave our land to Ecuacorriente. They put up fencing, and destroyed everything that was inside: houses, and crops of plantain, manioc and corn”.

Ecuacorriente had registered three legal complaints against Mr Tendetza for trespassing on this newly acquired land. He had repeatedly refused to ignore the restrictions that would see him banned from setting foot within an area that is said to have been inhabited by the Shuar for over 1,000 years.

Claims have been made that Tendetza’s death is just the latest in a continuing trend of violence against environmental activists in Ecuador.

Luis Corral, advisor within Ecuador’s Assembly of the People of the South, stated, ““We believe that this murder is part of a pattern of escalating violence against indigenous leaders which responds to the Ecuadorian government and the companies’ need to clear the opposition to a mega-mining project in the Cordillera del Condor”.

Juan Falconi Puig, Ecuadorian Ambassador in London, released a letter in response to an article on the murder published by The Guardian newspaper.

Puig stated that the idea that the Government was complicit in the crime was absurd, announcing that a full inquiry had been ordered, as well as a reward of US$100,000 offered for accurate information about the death.

He claimed that, “Ecuador has taken the lead internationally in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and of nature, setting up an observatory on the activities of multinationals in the global south and passing a motion at the UN human rights council that a legally binding instrument be set up holding multinationals to account”.

Government pushes for shift to electric cookers 

On 22nd December a law was approved by the ecuadorian Government that will remove value added tax (VAT) on all induction cookers sold in the country. The same law will see VAT on gas cookers increased to 100%.

The change comes as part of a move to encourage Ecuadorians to switch from gas cookers, which are currently prominent, to electricity-powered ones.

The government aims to see 3 million Ecuadorian homes switch to electric cookers in order to alleviate the subsidies on imported gas that currently cost the country US$710 million per year.

This change has been stimulated by a project to build facilities to dramatically increase hydroelectric production in Ecuador over the next 2 years.

PAIS Alliance publish goals for 2015

President Rafael Correa’s PAIS Alliance (Alianza Pais- AP) party has released a report outlining its performance to date, as well as setting its vision for 2015 and beyond.

The report cites the success of the National Strategy for Equality and Eradication of Poverty (Estrategia Nacional para la Igualdad y la Erradicación de la Pobreza). It claims that in 2005, the year that Correa came to power, 52% of the Ecuadorian population lived in conditions of poverty. In 2013 this figure had been reduced to 39%.

Improvements to the education system are also mentioned, and noted as having received praise from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The report highlights projects that will come into effect in the period of 2015 to mid-2016, such as an expansion of Ecuador’s hydroelectricity-production capabilities, an increase in the production and use of induction cookers, and an expansion of the country’s hydrocarbon and mineral extraction industries.