Police Raid Home of Ecuadorian Environmentalist

About a dozen heavily-armed police, some wearing skimasks, raided the homes of environmental activist Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of the NGO Intag Defense and Environmental Conservation DECOIN, and his neighbour Roberto Castro on Oct. 17, according to reports from the Intag Solidarity Network and the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU).

Zorrilla, an outspoken critic and opponent of Ascendant Copper’s widely unpopular mining activities in Intag, was not present at the time and his whereabouts are still unknown, although we understand he is alive and well.

At about 6:15 am, about 10 persons identifying themselves as policemen, some in uniform, two with black ski masks, and all armed with handguns and/or machine guns, arrived at Zorrilla’s. Twenty minutes later, another individual who claimed to be the prosecutor from the city of Cayambe, appeared with a search warrant. They searched Zorrilla’s home, as well as Castro’s, who has worked on Zorrilla’s farm for years and who lives nearby. As far as we can ascertain the Castro house was not included in the search warrant. Mr. Castro asked to see identification. His request was not granted. Zorrilla’s wife Sandy and son Martin were home and watched the policemen burst into the house and search their belongings. They tore apart Zorrilla’s bedroom/study. According to Martin, one member of the group was particularly aggressive, pushing and shouting at Martin, Sandy, and Roberto. The apparent leader announced after an hour that there was nothing to be found, they had other places to go to, and suggested that they be on their way. At that point, the aggressive individual walked outside with a bag of marijuana he claimed to have found in the living room and a gun he said he had found in Martin’s bedroom. At that point the search ended and the policemen left.

Other witnesses say that the police arrived in Santa Rosa that morning in a number of vehicles, none with police insignias, all without licence plates, and one, a red vehicle, identified as belonging to the mining company. They also state that the day before, two Ascendant Copper employees had spent most of the day in Santa Rosa. The police apparently acted on a complaint by an American, Leslie Brooke Chaplin, filed July 23 regarding an assault and robbery that had supposedly taken place during the peaceful rally against Ascendant Copper’s Junín project in Quito on July 13. Eyewitnesses have reported that there was no violence at any point during the rally and that the complaintant had been distributing leaflets on behalf of Ascendant Copper in the midst of the rally. We are also informed that Chaplin is or was an employee of the company, making the circumstances of the complaint and the unverifiable allegations it contains highly questionable.

Please write to the Minister of Government and Police, Antonio Andretta A., with copies to the other people listed below, expressing your concern that questionable and unverified accusations are being used to intimidate and defame a reputable and upstanding community leader, and urging that the circumstances of both the complaint and the police raid be fully and expeditiously investigated.

Contact addresses:

Lic. Antonio Andretta Arizaga
Ministro de Gobierno y Policía
Calle Benalcazar y Espejo
Quito – Ecuador
Fax +593 258-0067

Dr. Claudio Muecay Arcos
Defensor del Pueblo
Av. de la Prensa N54-97 y Jorge Piedra
Quito – Ecuador
Fax +593 2 330-1841

Ingeniero Iván Rodríguez
Ministro de Energía y Minas
Juan Leon Mera y Av. Orellana, Ed. MOP
Quito – Ecuador
e-mail via
Fax: +593 2 290-6350

Hna. Elsie Monge
Directora Ejecutiva
Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos CEDHU
Carlos Ibarra 176 y 10 de Agosto
Quito – Ecuador
Fax +593 2 258-9272

Embajada de Canada
Av. 6 de Diciembre 2816 y Paul Rivet
Quito, Ecuador
P.O. Box 17-11-6512
Tel: +593 2 2232-114/2506-162
Fax: +593 2 2503-108
e-mail: quito@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Gary E. Davis
President and CEO
Ascendant Copper Corporation
10920 West Alameda Avenue, Suite 201
Lakewood, CO 80226
Tel: (303) 824-0271
Fax: (303) 297-0538
e-mail: info@ascendantcopper.com

Sasha Angus, Director, Enforcement Division
British Columbia Securities Commission
701 West Georgia Street
P.O. Box 10142, Pacific Centre
Vancouver, B.C. V7Y 1L2
Tel: (604) 899-6500
Fax: (604) 899-6506
e-mail: inquiries@bcsc.bc.ca

Mary Ellen Fieweger
Periódico Intag/Intag Newspaper
Casilla 211
Otavalo, Imbabura

Silvia Quilumbango
DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag)
P.O. Box 144
Otavalo, Imbabura
Phone/Fax: +593 6 648 593
decoin(at)hoy.net and intagcz(at)uio.satnet.net