Ecuador Indians Say Troops Forced Them Out for Mining Project

QUITO – Leaders of a Kichwa Indian community in the Amazon province of Napo said Monday that Ecuadorian soldiers entered their town Nov. 29 to evacuate them from their territory in order to open the area for a mining project.

Modesto Alvarado, representative of the indigenous community, told Efe Monday that 63 soldiers entered the Tzawata community to clear the way for the return of the Merendon Mining Corporation Ltd., which left the region in 2007.

Nonetheless, spokespersons for Ecuador’s justice ministry and armed forces said they had no knowledge of the military entering Tzawata.

Under a U.N. treaty signed by Ecuador, military activities cannot be carried out on Indian lands without the consent of the natives, Alvarado said.

The representative said that, since Merendon left the area, the locals have been carrying on “a resistance struggle” to keep the company from returning, because, according to the Indians, it dumped “cyanide, mercury and chemicals like that in the rivers.”

“The children and women got sores on their bodies, they got burns on their bodies,” Alvarado said.

He said that Merendon, a firm now based in Belize and which mined for gold in the region between 2004 and 2007, “is trying to get the necessary permits to return, so they’re using the police in an attempt to move us out.”

A group linked to the Kichwas of Tzawata, the National Committee for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty, said in a communique that the military interference “is illegitimate.”

“The account given (by the military) is that this was a patrol looking for subversives and drug traffickers as a result of several reports made that rebels are involved in the fight over these lands, which is a total invention of the Merendon company,” the communique said. EFE

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