from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Some 22,000 residents of the northeastern Ecuadoran province of Orellana began a “progressive strike” on June 28 to protest environmental damage by the French oil company Perenco and repression by the military. The protest began with residents of the provincial capital, Francisco de Orellana, blocking roads leading to one of Perenco’s installations and threatening to block all the roads in the province, where much of the country’s oil production is concentrated. “The number [of protesters] will grow with the actions, because the communities will no longer put up with disrespect from the government and the oil companies,” Orellana province prefect Guadalupe Llori told the media.

Confrontations between the protesters and some 300 soldiers increased after protesters seized the area around the Coca airport and blocked the roads leading to it. Llori charged the military had violated the law by entering Francisco de Orellana, where it had no jurisdiction, and using rubber bullets and tear gas “against an unarmed civilian population”; two people were wounded. “[T]he soldiers made an attempt on my life,” Llori said. “They nearly killed me when they aimed a gun at me; the truth is, I don’t know how I escaped.” Later the soldiers deployed outside Coca municipality, where residents said they detained three local people.

The protesters were demanding that Perenco leave the province and pay for the damage they say it has caused. They also wanted the military to end a “state of exception” (state of emergency) it had enforced in the province for 105 days and to release human rights activist Wilmer (or Wilman) Jimenez Salazar.

According to human rights groups, the police seized Jimenez near a Perenco facility on June 19 when he was acting as a human rights observer at a protest by some 200 local campesinos, who were blocking access. Jimenez was one of two people wounded by rubber bullets. The police turned him over to military authorities, who held him for two days before notifying his family and defense attorneys. Joint Task Force #4 commander Gonzalo Meza denied a habeas corpus petition, saying Jimenez was “encountered in a fragrant act” (an error for “flagrant act”). The army says he will be tried for sabotage before a military tribunal. (El Comercio, Guayaquil. June 28; Prensa Latina, June 29; Univision, June 28 from EFE; El Universo, Guayaquil, July 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 2


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #123


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Aug. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution