The Republic of Ecuador was one of the first countries to grant rights to nature in their constitution in 2008, marking what should have meant a historic transition from viewing nature as property, to viewing her as a living entity entitled to rights. Nevertheless, the long standing battle between Ecuador’s indigenous communities and their supporters, the government, and foreign development industries shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa declares his support for Rights of Nature.
For numerous years the country has been the site of industrial development projects which have resulted in the destruction and displacement of indigenous peoples and their territories. Among the most recent conflicts, the Shuar people from the Nankints community in the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago have been resisting the mining project El Mirador which is being implemented on their ancestral territory. The project is being lead by the Chinese enterprise, Ecuacorriente, which according to the Ecuadorian newspaper, El Universo, aims to invest billions of dollars in the development of the natural deposit, which contains copper, gold, and silver reserves.
However, the Shuar people and their allies claim that the project will implicate irreversible damage to the already fragile ecosystem, and that it violates the rights of indigenous peoples and nature as defined by the Ecuadorian constitution. Nevertheless, in August thirty-two members of the Shuar nation were forcibly displaced from their territory by military officials clearing the area for the mining project.
Like many Ecuadorian groups throughout history who have opposed industrial development, the Shuar people faced a heavily militarized presence when they attempted to return home to their ancestral lands. In December as a result of continued protests against the project, the country declared itself in a thirty day “state of emergency”, during which all rights and due processes are suspended. President Correa commented on the situation referring to the protesters from various Amazonian nations as “semi-delinquents”.
Now, it’s not only the Shuar people facing displacement at the hands of the government, but also their biggest supporter. For the second time, on December 20th Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment announced their intention to close one of the primary environmental organizations in Latin America, Acción Ecológica. Previously, the organization skillfully pointed out the deficiencies in the EIA (Environmental Impact Analysis) for the Mirador project conducted by the company, Walsh Ecuador. Acción Ecológica indicated that “the analyses of the impacts corresponds to a fragmented vision of the socio-environmental milieu” and that it fails to recognize the area’s historical, artistic, and symbolic patrimony as “components exposed to important impacts”.
In addition, Acción Ecológica is largely responsible for starting the Keep it in the Ground movement, which uses scientific data to justify maintaining oil underground. They were also among the first to outline the concepts of Environmental Debt and The Rights of Nature, which were later formalized in the Ecuadorian constitution. In a formal letter, the Ministry of Environment stated that their request to close the organization is due to their open opposition to the Mirador project on social media.
More information about the attempted closing of Acción Ecológica in facebook.
Acción Ecológica openly rejected the ministry’s accusations that their social media use was inappropriate, and they affirm that their work is legal and legitimate. In addition, it concurs with Ecuador’s National Plan of Good Living which prioritizes environmental preservation, peace, and sustainability. Throughout the past few weeks members of the organization protested in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, and called for the support of both domestic and international allies. Hundreds of supporters around the world quickly turned to social media using the hashtags #SOSAcciónEcológica, #SOSPuebloShuar and #DefendtheDefenders to bring attention to the injustices committed against the organization.
Image: Actor Jared Leto showing support for Shuar Nation and Acción Ecológica
Fortunately, on January 12th after a resolution process between the organization and the Ministry of Environment, minister Walter Garcia dissolved the request to close Acción Ecológica, representing their second victory before the Ecuadorian government and their corporate partners. To celebrate this victory and express your solidarity with the guardians of nature from Acción Ecológica, share this article with the hashtags #SOSAcciónEcológica, #SOSPuebloShuar and #DefendtheDefenders!