Beyond the Petrostate: Ecuador’s Left Dilemma

Source: Dissent Magazine

On November 28, 2014 José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a representative of the indigenous Shuar nation in the southernmost province of Ecuador, was on his way to an anti-mining meeting. He never arrived. Nor did he make it to the Climate Change Conference the following week in Lima, Peru, where he had planned to deliver his anti-mining message to a broader audience. On December 2, according to Shuar leaders, miners found Tendetza’s body floating in the Zamora River. They allege that he was promptly buried in an unmarked grave under orders from the local prosecutor. When the corpse was exhumed following protest from his family and neighbors, signs of torture were evident. His legs and arms had been bound with blue rope, and a second autopsy determined strangulation as the cause of death.

Tendetza was a prominent activist against Mirador, an open-pit copper mine in Ecuador’s Amazonian south. He had experienced verbal and physical attacks since 2009, and in 2012, his house and crops were burned. In 2013, EcuaCorriente S.A., the company with the concession to develop the mine, controlled by a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, initiated legal proceedings to remove him from his property.

For indigenous and environmental activists, Tendetza’s murder is emblematic of the destruction wreaked by a model of development based on resource extraction. Large-scale mining is a pillar of leftist president Rafael Correa’s economic program. Moreover, the success of his program has depended in no small part on another natural resource: oil.

Continue reading