Rival marches in Ecuador over Amazon mining plans
Two competing marches have been held in Ecuador’s capital Quito, one in protest against the government’s mining policies and one supporting them.
Indigenous groups from the Amazon region have marched for 700km (430 miles) to protest against plans for an open-cast copper mine in their region.
They say the mine will pollute water and force people off their land.
But Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa says the mine will fund development and has rallied crowds of supporters.
More than 1,000 indigenous protesters reached Ecuador’s capital Thursday after a two-week march from the Amazon to oppose plans for large-scale mining on their lands.
The protesters were joined by thousands of anti-government protesters in Quito, and some of the demonstrators clashed with police outside the National Assembly. Police repelled rock-throwing young men using tear gas and charging at the demonstrators on horseback.
Police said at least four officers suffered minor injuries in the violence.
The indigenous protesters were joined by students, activists and government opponents who criticized President Rafael Correa for signing off on plans for mining projects including open pit mines that are to extract copper and other minerals from the traditional lands of the Shuar Indians in southern Ecuador.
Thousands of Correa’s supporters gathered in parks and plazas for a counter-demonstration to show their support for the government’s policies, some of them in front of the president’s palace.
Correa’s supporters chanted: “The coup-plotters won’t pass! They’ll bump into the people!”
The leftist president addressed a crowd of supporters at a park, saying the government is willing to talk with indigenous leaders despite the disagreements.
“We’ve told them: They want to talk, perfect, but with the good-intentioned, good people. For that, they don’t need marches. We’re always open to dialogue,” Correa said. He called the protesters “counterrevolutionaries.”
“If they want to beat us, they should do it in elections,” Correa said in a radio interview.
The president said the government took measures to ensure security and the right of his opponents to protest peacefully. Hundreds of police officers stood watch at both demonstrations.
“But if there is an act of violence… clearly it will be from infiltrated opposition groups,” Correa said, adding that he thought the indigenous protesters had failed to rally much of a crowd.
Correa, whose spending on social programs has helped boost his approval ratings above 70 percent, has supported large-scale mining projects saying they represent a financial boon for the country.
The march was organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, the country’s indigenous umbrella group.
Delfin Tenesaca, one of the group’s leaders, said that if the president is truly willing to have a dialogue, he should receive the protesters. “He should also eliminate all mining contracts in order to respect the constitution, which prohibits all types of mining in parks, ecological reserves and water sources,” Tenesaca said.
The indigenous group’s president, Humberto Cholango, told reporters: “We want peace and no more insults by the president.”
“We want Ecuador to know that there are people here who are willing to question and tell the president his mistakes,” Cholango told the Ecuadorean television channel Ecuavisa.
CONAIE, is Ecuador’s largest indigenous organization. Formed in 1986, CONAIE has pursued social change on behalf of the region’s significant native population using a wide range tactics including direct action. CONAIE is most well known for its organization of popular uprisings (“levantamientos populares”) that often include blockadingof commercial arteries and the takeover of government buildings.
CONAIE’s political agenda includes the strengthening of a positive indigenous identity, recuperation of land rights, opposition to neoliberalism, and a rejection of U.S. military involvement in South America (for example Plan Colombia).
Most recently, CONAIE was a primary force behind the ousting of President Lucio Gutiérrez, who was widely perceived as corrupt and beholden to neoliberal influence.
CONAIE is an interesting group and the 2 marches for different outcomes..can they find a happy medium? i highly doubt it..but CONAIE is powerful and has removed 2 presidents before..watch them..