Denouncing attack against an indigenous human rights defender confronting mining in Ecuador

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, or CAOI) denounced a violent attack against its General Coordinator Yaku Pérez Guartambel. Mr. Pérez is a leader of the Kañari people of Ecuador and President of the Confederación de Pueblos Kichwas del Ecuador (Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador - ECUARUNARI).

According to reports ESCR-Net received, on 9 May 2018 Yaku Pérez travelled toward the Rio Blanco community (Molleturo Parish, Cuenca county, Azuay Province) with three other indigenous leaders: Mario Gonzalo, Fárez Ramon, Víctor Hernández Siavichay and Manuel Gayllas. While en route to Rio Blanco, at approximately 7:30am, he was allegedly stopped and subsequently kidnapped by individuals who work for the Chinese Junefield Ecuagoldminig company.

CAOI and its Ecuadorian member, ECUARUNARI, have been publicly critical of large-scale mining in the Andean region due to that mining projects' impact on the human rights and environment of local communities.

According to Yaku Pérez, workers from the mine accused him of burning a mining encampment in Rio Blanco; an act which he denies. He reports that they attacked his vehicle, broke his tires and threatened to burn him alive. The assailants then reportedly forced Yaku Pérezto drive to a plaza in front of the local school, where they proceeded to beat him and spit in his face, while continuing to issue death threats. Calling him "backwards" and an "opponent of development," they demanded that he sign a memorandum that would commit him to guaranteeing employment to all workers who are currently paid by the company. 

Yaku Perez underscores that this recent attack is connected to the peaceful resistance that has been carried out by the indigenous communities of Rio Blanco and Molleturo against forcible displacement and the invasion of multinational corporations in indigenous territories. The representative organizations of these communities have upheld their firm commitment to defending the right to water; the right to free, prior and informed consent; the right to health and a healthy environment: and other rights related to their access to, and control over, their lands and ancestral territories.

Concerned about the ongoing persecution of members of the Molleturo community and their leaders by individuals affiliated with the Junefield Ecuagoldminig company and the government of Ecuador, the Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (CAOI) is demanding:

  • a full and independent investigation on the recent attack against Yaku Pérez and his companions as it relates to their activities defending the human rights of communities affected by mining in the Andean region,
  • that Ecuador complies with the Mandato Constituyente Minero (No.6), or the Mining mandate of 2008, which curtails mining in Ecuador due to inadequate legal protections in terms of environmental and social impacts,
  • that Ecuador implements laws and policies consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Labor Organization’s Covenant 169 and other international human rights instruments.