Ecuador: ecology group ordered closed

Ecuador's government on Dec. 19 issued an order for the dissolution of the Quito-based organization Acción Ecológica, for 30 years a voice for the country's indigenous peoples in their struggles against oil and mineral development. The Interior Ministry issued the order, accusing the group of complicity in "violent acts" carried out by anti-mining protesters in the Amazon region. A group of experts from the UN Human Rights Council issued a statement Dec. 30 protesting the order, and calling on Ecuador's government to halt "repressive measures that seek to asfixiate civil society." The statement said: "The government of Ecuador seems to be systematically dissolving organizations when they become too vocal or challenge government orthodoxy."

Acción Ecológica had been previously ordered closed in 2009, with similar justifications. However, following an international outcry, the order was rescinded and never carried out. Other advocacy groups Ecuador's government has shut down over the last three years include the National Union of Educators and the Pachamama Foundation. Last year, international protest pressured the government to rescind orders for the closure of free-speech advocacy organization Fundamedios.

The new order for the closure of Acción Ecológica came two days after it issued a call for an investigation into a new wave of violence over anti-mining protests in the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago. On Dec. 14, indigenous Shuar warriors reportedly attacked a camp of the Chinese-owned Explorcobres copper exploration project in the municipality of San Carlos de Tanantza, leaving a National Police officer dead and five others injured.

The area has seen growing unrest since Shuar communities were evicted in August to make way for the Explorcobres project. The government has declared a state of emergency in the zone, and flooded troops into the local canton of San Juan Bosco. President Rafeal Correa referred to the attackers as "the usual violent ones, disguised as 'ancestrals.'" (Thomson Reuters Foundation, El Universo, Guayaquil, Dec. 30;