22 November 2006 Update

By , November 22, 2006

New Criminal Charges
The Watershed Events of the 1st of November
And More…

Where to begin? I guess by thanking all of you for really coming through. If I’m not in jail now, or worse, it is, in large measure, due to the letters and other types of pressure you were able to generate. A very sincere THANK YOU.

But no, it’s not over with yet. The Public Prosecutor (or DA) is intent on using the drugs and gun the police planted in my house, taken on a completely illegal raid to my home, in order to initiate new criminal lawsuits against me. She won’t be involved in these new cases, luckily, so whoever is “influencing” her to bypass legal procedures to persecute me will have to influence new DA’s and judges. At any time, and precisely because of the outrageous irregularities, the new judge could issue new arrest warrants. So, basically, while we were able to get the arrest warrant revoked, I have to keep being extremely careful for a while longer, until I know what is happening with the other two cases (for a complete report on the police raid, see: www.counterpunch.org/zorrilla10262006.html

November 1st.
If you’ve kept up, you know that the company hired and trained about 80 people from all over Ecuador, in what can be called paramilitary skills, in order to forcefully occupy land they say belongs to the company. According to eye-witnesses, these people were trained by retired military personnel in the town of Pintag, outside Quito, in such skills as avoiding getting sliced by landing helicopters; use of tear-gas, and personal defense. Some people from Intag took part in what they were told was going to be agricultural training, but once they found out what it was really about, 22 deserted by the end of the first day.

Then, according to the official’s own testimony, the company hired Marco Vargas, an active Major of the armed forces to lead this crew up the Intag mountains. They were transported in Ascendant Copper Corporation vehicles, and came with four specially trained dogs. And, lots of tear gas. In a later press statement, they told the press that they were an agricultural organization under contract by Ascendant to work Ascendant’s lands. However, their presence provoked violent confrontations, with several people hurt, including two children, aged 2 and 3, who suffered injuries when some of the invaders used tear gas in the village of Barcelona. As the November 3rd La Hora newspaper article reported, the company and the “agricultural workers” were completely routed by the communities. Forty of them were arrested by community members and turned over to the police. One of the consequences of this disastrous and failed invasion was that it generated even more opposition to Ascendant’s mining project. People were outraged that a “responsible corporate citizen” could hire and train outsiders, arm them with tear gas, machetes and sticks in order to try and occupy the communities say belong to them. Amnesty International has all the information about this latest travesty, as well as the persecution and illegal search of my home, and will soon launch a campaign to denounce it to the world.

Bad Press.
Meanwhile, the government, through the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Quito Chamber of Mines, have been busy publicly and viciously attacking the latest resistance to mining projects in the country- mainly in the Condor Range in the South, and in Intag. In the Condor, thousands of people, led by local government officials, rose against a major Canadian copper-gold mining project. They, pathetically, are using the “outside agitators” excuse for the resistance. But, in the case of Intag, and as reported in several national newspapers, they outright blamed foreigners for the “problems”. Yesterday, the Minister was able to see for himself, again, that the resistance to the JUNIN mining project is not led by any foreigners. The press, not surprisingly, has been unenthusiastic about reporting our side of the story. It seems outrageous human rights violation, and in my case, police planting guns and drugs in my home, is not worth reporting.

And more…
Yesterday a large delegation from Intag and Cotacachi met with the Minister of Energy and Mines. The main objective was to stop the company from provoking more violence in Intag, and to pressure the Minister to force Ascendant to leave the area. The delegation included a Cotacachi County councilman, and two presidents from Intag’s Parish governments- including the president of the Association of Parish governments. Afterwards I talked to some of the participants at the meeting, and they told me that they left the meeting more convinced than ever that Ascendant’s days in Intag are numbered. One of the points brought up and discussed was the inapplicability of Ascendant’s Environmental Impacts Study. They all agreed that the Study is too flawed to be approved. Another fundamental issue brought up at the meeting was the unconstitutionality of the mining concessions. The main argument discussed was that, until the State consults with the communities as mandated in Ecuador’s Constitution, the mining concessions are illegal.

Agricultural Ascendant.
Just the other day the company recently announced that it had acquired another 5 or so million dollars/ to spend not on exploration in Junin, but more for their other project in the south of the country, and to develop agricultural projects in the lands within the Junin concessions. Prettyyyyyy funny this. I wonder what kind of fool investors would put money on a mining company that turns to agriculture – can’t they see the writing on the wall?

After all this time it seems incredible to me that the head clowns at Ascendant still believe that DECOIN is solely, or mostly, responsible for the resistance to their mining project. The current persecution is based on this flawed perception. However, even before Ascendant defiled Intag with its presence, the resistance to mining in Intag was well established and deeply rooted.

For Ascendant, then, it’s not a matter of if, but when, it will be forced to abandon Intag. All the outrageous pressures generated against me and DECOIN* will not, in the least, influence that outcome.


*For an interesting interchange of letters between Ascendant’s Gary Davis and myself, see The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre‘s section on Ecuador.


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