Dear Mr. President,
In relation to the statements made by you in the weekly national address on Saturday September 28 and October 5 of this year related to the opposition to mining in Intag, I regret that heard various statements about myself, my work and the current situation in Intag that have nothing to do with reality.
To begin with Mr. President, I have never gone against the law in this or any other country, as I am accused of, and I consider it a reckless accusation. I’ve never participated in road blockades, or violent actions – be they verbal or physical. Moreover, on the September 28th slide show, you mistakenly said I have called a tourism business called Casa de Intag Intag. I would like to point out that the Casa de Intag is located in Otavalo, approximately three hours from Intag, and it is not a tourist site. La Casa de Intag is a nonprofit, fair trade business established by DECOIN, organization of which I am proud founding member of. Its purpose is to open markets for handicrafts, organic coffee, handmade soap and other products made by Ecuadorian producers belonging to groups in Intag.
The tourist site referred to in your address is possibly Ecojunin, an eco-tourism initiative in the hands of Chalguyacu Alto and Junín community members. Ecojunin is another example of an economic alternative initiative which DECOIN has created and supported throughout the nearly 20 years of its existence. I say alternative because it is an alternative to the social conflicts, destruction of thousands of hectares of primary forests and pollution of dozens of pristine rivers and streams that the Llurimagua mining project would generate, and which community tourism actively protects.
Another mistake of your speech was to identify Ms. Lindsay Shade and others as members of DECOIN. It is truly unfortunate, as well as surprising, just how misinformed your informants are. Not one person from those presented in the slides to the world on Saturday September 28th, besides myself, is a member of DECOIN. In the case of Ms. Shade, for example, she is a student working on her PhD thesis who chose Intag’s resistance as the subject of her thesis. The other two Americans mentioned in your speech are volunteers who are in Intag as human rights monitors to prevent human rights violations.
Miss Shade is not the only foreign or Ecuadorian student who has chosen this theme, nor will she be the last. Resistance in Intag draws attention for several reasons, including the fact that it has created economic alternatives to mining and that communities have peacefully resisted for almost two decades an extractive project Japanese experts say will raze thousands of hectares of primary cloud forests, will contaminate several rivers with heavy metals, and lead to the relocation at least four communities. Deforestation will be so destructive that the authors of the Environmental Impact Study- which was prepared for a small copper mine- predicted it would dry up Intag’s climate, and also destroy the home of dozens of endangered species . A year after its publication, the Japanese found evidence that the deposit could contain five times more copper. In other words, the social and environmental impacts, if the mine is ever opened, will be much more extensive than described. If you are interested in knowing an important part of what motivates Intag’s resistance, I suggest you to study in detail the above document, since space limitations do not allow me to include all the projected impacts in the Study. Knowing these impacts, I would sincerely like ask you: What individual, conscientious and responsible with their community, would not oppose the project?
One of the things I was most distressed to hear is the part where you labeled me “a foreigner who opposes the development of the country.” I may be a foreigner, but my four children are proudly Ecuadorians and they will be the most affected by you unfortunate statements. I am a foreigner, but I have lived in Intag permanently for 35 years and, as you can see by the projects that we have supported, I am not opposed to development. I am opposed, Mr. President, to the type of development that large-scale mining brings to places like Intag. I am opposed to the social chaos that this kind of “development” brings – a chaos that we have experienced twice in Intag before; and I am opposed to and will always oppose, the environmental destruction of one of the most biodiverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet; much more threatened than Ecuador’s Oriente.
Intag’s forests are not only the home to dozens of endangered species- species such as jaguars, spectacled bears and spiders monkeys- but also provide stability to Intag’s climate and the whole country, and are where dozens of rivers and streams are born. Many of these sources of clean water are utilized by communities, and will be needed to supply the hydroelectric projects being developed by your government in this area. One of the DECOIN’s most successful conservation initiatives has been creating hydrological and forest reserves that benefit 35 communities and five of the seven Parish Governments in Intag. Thousands of Intag residents benefit daily from these community forested areas, as they are the only sources for healthy drinking water for communities and parish centers alike. On the other hand, these same forests are used by various communities to enrich the experience of community ecotourism, an activity that holds fantastic potential in Intag and that is perfectly logical for this area and the rest of Ecuador.
It is truly tragic, probably due to the defective quality of the information you are receiving, that you perceive Intag’s resistance so wrong. The scenario is very similar to that of the transnational corporation Ascendant Copper, who likewise was radically wrong in perceiving that the opposition to the Junín mining project was due to only a few opponents and one or other foreigner. That misperception made the company completely fail and led to its bankruptcy and, together with the strategy to use force, generated serious acts of violence and human rights violations in the population, which left deep wounds and divisions in Intag’s civil society; wounds that has taken more than five years to heal. Unfortunately, the wounds are today being reopened by the presence of Enami EP and CODELCO. In this context, I hope you do not trust the farcical support that the pro-mining thesis received at the October 5 national address coming from a few Intag residents whose only interest is to access mining jobs and who, with very few exceptions, came from communities that will not be affected by the mining project. **
Finally, it is ironic that on the presentation of the 28th you implied that I was involved in the alleged road blockade of the 14th of September when Enami attempted to enter the Llurimagua mining concession without asking or consulting with the communities or local governments. The truth is that on day I was traveling to Washington D.C., invited by Ecuador’s Procurator-General, to be part of the country’s defense in the lawsuit filed by Ascendant Copper against Ecuador for tens of millions of dollars. Two other Intag residents, also identified as mining opponents, likewise lent their hand to legally defend the country. Inexplicably, for this work it did not matter that I was a foreigner.
It is almost inevitably that you will reject the following invitation, but I feel I have to issue it: I invite you to visit the area of the mining project, and speak with affected communities, visit the cloud forests that will be destroyed and the rivers that will contaminated so you learn first-hand just how misinformed you are regarding the opposition, the real impacts anticipated, and of this unique ecosystem. But I suggest you leave your advisers at home; enough is the damage they have caused.
October 7, 2013
**You should know that several of the persons who supported mining in Intag on the October 5 national address ,including Oswald Erazo, were loyal employees of Ascendant Copper, the same company that today is suing Ecuador for 80 million dollars (author’s correction; $120 million). Just from Chalguayacu Alto, there are five persons with the Vallejos last name and six with the same maternal surname recorded in Ascendant Copper’s payroll, which was turned over to the government on March 2007.