The Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU) denounces violent actions by people linked to Canadian mining company Ascendant Copper for their attempts to invade various communities in the country’s Intag region, while wearing camouflaged uniforms, carrying machine guns and handguns, and using tear gas.
2nd of December 2006
Approximately at 4 a.m. on Friday, 2 of December 2006, a group of persons- some dressed as civilians, others from Otavalo and Intag area but associated with the Ascendant Copper Corporation, used tear gas, machine guns and handguns in the area of Chalguayacu Alto (García Moreno Parish; Cotacachi County, Imbabura province) injuring some members of the local population. As a consequence of this confrontation, the campesino Israel Pérez suffered a bullet wound. The community captured 25 of these invaders, with the aim of turning them over to the police.
Army helicopter contracted to render services to Canadian Ascendant Copper Corporation
Around 8am, and on another area, four pick-up trucks full of persons in camouflage went by the community of Villaflora, Barcelona area heading towards the cordillera, at the same time that a helicopter was flying over Junin and adjacent areas (contracted to assist the incursion). Around midday, the vehicles returned empty. Another group of approximately 50 persons from the Peñaherrera also were heading towards Junin. Similarly, from Cuellaje other persons, contracted by the company, are trying to head towards Junin.
Among the incidents denounced by the communities, the destruction of the fence protecting the installations of Intag’s community radio and the destruction of 5 meters of the antenna. The communities also denounced the alleged judicial order to occupy Ascendant Copper Corporation lands.
Individuals associated with Ascendant seize government authorities and inhabitants from Intag
Around 8pm on the night of December second the persons detained both by the individuals associated with Ascendant as well as by those detained by the community, freed.
3rd of December, 2006
The Junin community is besieged by personnel armed by Ascendant Copper Corporation. In the early dawn hours of today, another incursion comprised of about 120 armed individuals tried to reach Junin through the route known as "El Copo", while others are arriving in Chalguayacu Bajo.
The communities denounce that the persons who are in the vicinity of Junin and who are trying to reach the community are using war tactics. These series of armed incursions coincide with a denunciation previously presented by the Intag Parish Government Association to Sergio Torres, Imbabura’s Police Chief, and to Imbabura’s governor, Mr. Juan Almedia, against two officials of the Army (one is retired Army Major Marco Vinicio Vargas Padilla), who since November 8th 2006, were planning these incursions in Otavalo.
The new incidents that took place during December 1 and 2 were denounced by CEDHU to General Luis Garzón (First Army Division, in Quito), who confirmed that a Army helicopter had been hired for delivering provisions, but assured that no active Army personnel took part in the operative.
The denounced incidents also coincide with the Minister of Energy’s double talk, because, on the one hand he proposes to the communities to abide by Constitutional norms and other laws of the nation, as well as to carry forth a series of meetings (proposed on the 24th of November) with representatives of the Cotacachi Municipal government; the Intag Parish Association, and community representatives, with the goal of addressing the issue; on the other hand, this government official makes statements (see Imbabura’s Diario del Norte December 1 and 2) against "foreigners that oppose mining", disrespecting the process of dialogue that he himself proposed. The statements also demonstrate how this functionary underestimates not only the position of Intag’s communities but also the policies of local governments: Parish governments; Cotacachi Municipality; and the Imbabura government, who have publicly stated their opposition to mining.
We hold the Minister of Energy and Mines and Ascendant Copper Corporation responsible for these new measures which threaten human rights of Intag’s communities, and for all other consequences derived from these premeditated armed incursions.
We call on the province’s governor and the police to make sure enough personnel are assigned to protect the people, stop the pro-mining incursions, and prevent confrontations in the area.
We ask the Ministry of Defense to fully investigate the paramilitary groups used by the Canadian corporation Ascendant Copper Corporation, as well as the contracted retired Mayor Marco Vinicio Vargas Padilla.
We ask the local, provincial, national and international press to report on these new abuses, which pose a risk to life, the physical integrity of individuals, and the peaceful tradition of the Ecuadorian people.
Sister Elsie Monge
COMISIÓN ECUMÉNICA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS, CEDHU