Ecuador: protest demands release of Amazon indigenous leaders

Adherents of the Ecuadoran indigenous federation CONAIE rallied outside a Quito courthouse Feb. 7 to demand the release of three leaders of the Shuar people from the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago who were arrested last week in the September 2009 slaying of a local teacher in the region, Bosco Wizuma. One of the three, José Acacho, is charged with “terrorism” for inciting protests over La Voz de Arutam radio station which allegedly resulted in the killing. CONAIE leader Marlon Santi threatened protests that would “shake the country” if the men are not freed. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadoran Amazon (CONFENAIE), a regional CONAIE affiliate, accused President Rafael Correa’s government of “criminalizing protest,” and called for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to intercede in the case. (El Telégrafo, Quito, AFP, Feb. 7; AFP, Feb. 4)

In a statement after the September 2009 incident, CONAIE accused the National Police of provoking violence at the protest by opening fire on an indigenous march at a bridge over the Rio Upano, and said that Wisuma (also rendered Visúm), himself a protester and member of the Shuar people, was likely killed by police fire. (CONAIE statement , Oct. 1, 2009, via Indymedia Ecuador)

The march was part of the protest campaign against Ecuador’s pending Water Law, which finally resulted in a qualified victory for the protesters after a cost of several lives.

See our last posts on Ecuador, the Amazon and regional struggles for control of water.

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