Following the recent success of the indigenous Ecuadoran struggle against Occidental Petroleum’s illegal poisoning and militarization of that country, 22,000 protesters in the northeastern province of Orellana took aim at French oil company Perenco. Residents of the provincial capital, Francisco de Orellana, blockaded a major Perenco installation and threatened more roadblocks 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," said Orellana province prefect Guadalupe Llori.
Three hundred soldiers clashed with protesters after the latter seized roads leading to the local airport in Coca. Llori accused the military of violating the law by entering Francisco de Orellana, where it had no jurisdiction and using rubber bullets and tear gas "against an unarmed civilian population," wounding two people.
"[T]he soldiers made an attempt on my life," Llori said. "The truth is, I don’t know how I escaped." Soldiers later deployed outside Coca municipality and detained three people, according to local residents.
Protesters are demanding that Perenco leave the province and reimburse the provincial government for environmental damages. They also want the military to end a 105-day state of emergency and to release human rights activist Wilman Jimenez Salazar.
According to human rights groups, police seized Jimenez outside a Perenco facility on June 19 as 200 campesinos blockaded the plant’s entrance. Jimenez was reportedly serving as a human rights observer and was one of two people wounded by rubber bullets.
Police turned over Jimenez 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 (sic) act." The army says he will be tried for sabotage before a military tribunal. Source: Weekly News Update #857