A lot to write about, unfortunately. This is the latest from the Junin area; please get involve:
2nd of August 2004
1. I heard (today) that the miners have set up a camp less than a kilometer from Junin’s community reserve, fit for 70 people. Apparently their aim is reestablishing the camp at the old Mitsubishi mining camp. This area is wholly within the community reserve. Junin people are patrolling the area daily, or every other day, and communicating with the community via walkie talkies (we can use a couple more walkie talkies by the way).
2: Yesterday (1 August) we heard from reliable sources that mining company officials (including General Villacís) are going around collecting signatures asking for the removal of families in the Junin area that oppose the mine. This is probably a strategy to gain support for the invasion of the community reserve; legally they cannot evict anyone without court orders- which, of course they do not have.
However, given that the most of the land the reserve is unclaimed land, and without title, they may invade with police or army support. We are monitoring the situation, but it’s hard to get information since there are no phones anywhere near Junin. Currently, we are working with the Municipal government to try and stop a potential bloodshed.
3. Yesterday also, a large tractor, brought in by Ascendant Exploration, going into communities close to Junin (Chalguaycu Alto and Bajo) to start fixing the roads into these communities– the work includes gravelling the road. The principal goal is getting further support from communities for the mining company.
A lot of this current and aggressive activities are probably because the company must begin exploration activities during what is left of this year’s dry season-which usually ends by October. We are feeling the heat and suspect the investors are getting nervous about this mining project.
On the other hand….
4. DECOIN is helping to gather signatures from communities and organizations denouncing the latest aggressions and the plans to forcibly evict people from the reserve and communities- We’ll pass on a model letter the soonest possible time for you to sign.
YESTERDAY, the newly hired nurse (thanks mostly to Sloth Club members in Japan) went into Chalguayacu Bajo community to start working for the communities in the area. We have also funneled money to pay for the travel costs for a doctor to go into this area once a month– a simple clinic is in the planning stage.
LATEST MEETINGS AND RALLIES: This past Saturday (1 August) we had a meeting in Apuela with the communities in the mining area and a few others. Jose Serrano, from the Quito-based NGO, CDES, came to talk about the mining struggle and their support for our struggle here (Interamerican Human Rights Commission, among other support). Later in the meeting, our mayor, Auki Tituaña, came and also manifested his support for the valiant struggle Intag’s communities are undertaken. The people present were super motivated.
We have confirmed that the miners paid $10.00 per day to people to attend the rally in García Moreno on 17 July which was called for communities in the García Moreno parish to sign a document supporting the mining company so called “development plan”. Together with the local Community Development Council, we were able to mobilize a lot of people and spoil their party, however. More than 400 people showed up, but due to the 10 bucks a day for going, many were pro-miners– however, ALL of the communities most directly affected by the mining project, decidedly and publicly rejected the mining project and the presence of the mining company. In addition, the document was not signed, thus defeating the main objective of the rally. In all, only about 7 of García Moreno’s 32 communities publicly expressed being in favor of mining- NONE OF THEM, HOWEVER, ARE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY THE PROJECT. In the rest of Intag’s 6 other parishes, over 90% of the communities are against mining activities- a similar figure goes for Intag’s organized groups…..Oh, it was at this rally that the main person at Ascendant Exploration, General Cesar Villacís, publicly accused our mayor of hiring Polibio Pérez, a community organizer and leader, to kill him. The Mayor will likely soon criminally charge Villacís for slander.
Peñaherrera 10 July: Ascendant Exploration invited the nice people of the Peñaherrera parish to view their “development plan”, but we showed up with over 200 people, and the pro-mining meeting turned out to be a huge anti-mining rally, where 80 or more percent of the people were vociferously anti-mining. Mining company officials left very much with their tails between their legs- shocked at the level of opposition, and very, very nervous.
Meanwhile, we are having several meetings and workshops weekly to get the word out about what is really going on. We are also working closely with the Community Development Council (they need emergency funding!!) in the Junin area.
The past few days and weeks have been very intense and stressful. The company has launched a very dirty anti-Decoin campaign, accusing us of keeping million of dollars from all the projects we work on! This country is corrupt enough that some people are buying it. That, and the need for a perverted justification for keeping the money the company is handing out to sign letters of support for the company. In spite of all this, I am happy to say just all the communities we work with are still strong in the opposition to mining. And of course Junin still leads the opposition, though other nearby communities are strongly supporting Junin.
What next? This week, we’ll be working hard to do all we can to prevent a violent confrontation in the Junin area. A confrontation we feel is being promoted by Ascendant Exploration. A couple of leaders from Junin will be in Quito during the next few days contacting the press and friendly congressmen to try and defuse the situation.
Sorry, but it’s been a very long day.