Update Sept 2011-

By , September 22, 2011
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Intag news, September two thousand and eleven

Police arrests anti-mining activists Updated 25 September

Stopping Codelco in Intag- For Now
Large Scale mining: another green light
The folly of Ecuador’s new mining plan
Conservation in Intag

Selva Alegre and Lafarge: New Arrests in Intag

This last September 9, a squad of police from the town of Otavalo arrested nine activists protesting against Lafarge’s Selva Alegre limestone mine. In the violent police raid, and according to first-hand reports- a woman was beaten, and a house broken into by police without a legal warrant. Four of the nine are currently under arrest and charged with terrorism, sabotage and for obstructing a public road. The activists were arrested for blocking the road the company uses to transport the limestone to Otavalo to make cement, and were part of about twenty-five others belonging to a local group opposed to the mining activities which is impacting their land. The protestors were also clamoring for more jobs to go to the locals.

The mine, which belongs to the world’s largest cement manufacturer, was recently cited for contamination and illegal mining practices. Only in an upside down world such as ours does the police arrest demonstrators opposing an illegal mining operations. But that’s another story- you can read about some of the outrageousness associated with the world’s larges cement maker- Lafarge, on our site:  www.lafargeotavalo.com

UPDATE 25 Sept>  According to new information, the four arrested- who were also beaten up during the violent raid- were set free on Thursday- but they have to report once a week to the public prosecutor in Otavalo until the authorities decide what to do with them… It seems that the government officials would like the whole thing to just go away, as there will very likely be charges filed for human rights violations against the police.  The woman who was cruelly beaten left the clinic on Sept 12- four days after the police action-  If the police had not confiscated the cameras used to document the alleged police brutality, we would be showing some of the images in this post.  The Quito-based  human rights organization, CEDHU, will be supporting the victims of the police raid, as well as the Public Defender (Ombudsman).  The police  and the public prosecutor will have some explaining to do regarding the brutal use of force and the illegal entry into a home without a search warrant.

Sadly, the use of public force to quell public protest in order to uphold business rights and governmental policy  is becoming a norm in this once-upon-a-time peaceful country.  This, in spite of the fact that right to resist policies and measures that threaten one’s Constitutional rights- such as the right to live in an safe  environment,  are embedded in the Constitution.

Stopping Codelco in Intag- for Now
I mentioned in my earlier blog that Junin without Codelco makes no sense, especially since – except for undermining human rights– the Ecuadorian government mining company has no experience at all with any kind of mining. It seems that the letter of opposition that DECOIN, Cedhu (human rights organization) and the local government of Garcia Moreno sent to the Ministry of the Environment worked to stop the start of the exploration at the El Paraiso concession- just west of Junin. The Ministry cited 28 instances of non-compliance with the law in the Study where the concession owner (a private individual), will have to first comply with before it can began exploring. Together with Cedhu, we are hoping to soon present new legal challenges to this very poor study. But for now, the exploration has been stopped. A total lack of funds to pay for legal fees is the main obstacle that keeps us from pursuing the legal angle more fully.

Ecuador’s new mining plan.
As I mentioned previously, Ecuador has a brand new mining development plan. It calls for opening up all the country to large-scale mining- including its ocean floor. Presently, only about 4% of the country is in the hands of mining companies; the plan would like to see all of the country explored or exploited for minerals. All, except the protected areas- but these can be opened with a simple OK of the legislative, which is controlled by the Executive who is, in turn, enamored with the mining model of development (which translates into: more cheap resources for the rich North; more poverty and environmental, cultural and social devastation for the South).

The Junin concession figures very large in the Plan- with about 9 million dollars earmarked by the government for exploratory activities for what is left of this year, and 2012. According to the government, Junin holds 40% of the nation’s mineral wealth. Where they got this number is a mystery, but it is entirely fabricated. In any case, given that yesterday the government approved the Environmental Impact Study for the very first large-scale copper mine in the South (El Mirador- belonging to a Chinese company), the pressure is bound to increase here in the North. The El Mirador study had 250 issues brought up by experts in the field of Environmental Impact Studies; yet the government went ahead and approved it. No, it does not bode well four our neck of the woods…

Conservation:
DECOIN continues to buy forests (800 hectares in 2010; 900 planned for 2011), is working with communities to continue planting trees in their reserves (50,000 this year)); and to try to buy more community watershed reserves to protect water, biodiversity and forests. The project also protects the health of thousands of Inteño residents, by providing safe water. The project is now severely underfunded, even though it is, in my mind, the single most effective conservation initiative going in Intag. Why? Because the communities urgently want to protect their water sources and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect them.

There are many paper protected areas in the world; many will be invaded, or ransacked by loggers or copper and gold mines, or oil extraction in the near future, initiated by governments like Ecuador’s, who can only see the short-term benefits of extractive development. In this context, it is appalling to me that so many conservation organizations are into the numbers game, and cannot see the value of community-based conservation initiatives such as ours. They are stuck in the Big Numbers Syndrome of “protected forests”, so they can show off to their donors the large numbers of hectares they are supposedly helping protect. Ours is a small-is-beautiful- but very effective approach. Give communities a real reason to protect biodiversity and forests, and they will risk their lives to protect them, even if it means fighting the government’s short-sighted plans. For me, it is the only way of assuring long-term protection of the country’s biological wealth. And it is tragic that it is so difficult to assure enough funding for these kinds of initiatives.

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