Thousands of demonstrators led by Paúl Carrasco, prefect of Azuay province, filled the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador, on March 11, to launch the regional feeder march of the cross-country Walk in Defense of Water, Life and Dignity, which is to coverge on Quito from several points around the country later this month. Carrasco, addressing the crowd of protesters, aimed his comments at President Rafael Correa, demanding that plans for be dropped for massive new mineral development in the region. “Señor Correa, the mineral project in Cuenca will not go ahead,” he said. Although the march was peaceful, many protesters wore masks, saying they feared retribution from the authorities. (Hoy, Quito, March 11, El Comercio, Quito, March 10).
President Correa, meanwhile, held a public meeting deubbed the “Enlace Ciudadano” (Citizen Connection) in the town of Amaguaña, Pichincha province, where he trumpeted his plans for mineral exploitation on a grand scale. He insisted that mineral exploitation can be ecologically sound, citing the remediation efforts of the Chinese firm Ecuacorriente (ECSA) in Zamora Chinchipe province, where the company has pledged to reforest 4,000 hectares and to create an “artifical lake” to replace one displaced by its operations at the Mirador copper mine. Correa approved the contract with ECSA as the march was advancing on Quito, to the outrage of protesters. (El Norte, Ibarra, March 10)