MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-01-29




Cuenca, Ecuador

29th January 2007

On 24-27 January 2007, the ENCUENTRO DE PUEBLOS POR LA VIDA (People's Gathering For Life) was carried out in Sigsig, Cuenca and Gualaquiza, Ecuador. The gathering was organized by the World Movement for the People's Health – Latin American, the School of Medicine at the University of Cuenca, the National Front for People's Health of Ecuador, the Popular Campesino Coordination, Ecological Action, the Commission for the Defense of the Environment of Victoria del Portete and the Committee for the Defense of Life and Against Mining of Sigsig.

On January 24, thousands of people gathered in Sigsig, overflowing the town stadium. It was calculated that at least three thousand persons participated in this first day, including organizations and communities of Azuay, Loja, Morona, Zamora, Imbabura, Pichincha, and Bolívar. They heard the presentations around what large-scale open-pit mining is and what the impacts on human health are, after which various persons gave accounts from different parts of Ecuador and other countries, giving evidence of the serious threat that this type of mining represents to the health and lives of the people. After this, a large march for water was carried out where the voices and desires of the people to defend this vital resource as a human right and prevent water from being controlled by the transnational -- especially mining -- companies.

The following two days, 25-26 January were in Cuenca, where a packed agenda was carried out, where both the presentations of various experts in different issues as well as the testimonies of affected communities clearly made clear the necessity of UNITY and ORGANIZATION to confront the common enemies that will not hesitate to use any type of aggression in order to achieve their perverse goals.

One important theme taken on Friday was the issue of GEOPOLITICS, MILITARISM and MINING. The presentations of both professionals and the testimonies presented put firmly in question the role of armed forces in the conflicts with the mining transnationals, as shown in the case of Intag (Imbabura) and El Pangui (Zamora Chinchipe), in Ecuador, and the loss of national sovereignty as a direct consequence of the handing over of thousands of hectares of Ecuadorian territory to the mining transnationals.

Many other forms of protest accompanied the event, such as the premiere of the documentary VIENTOS DE LA AMAZONIA, made by young people from the city of Cuenca, a photographic exposition over the conflicts in Jimbitono and Tundayme, participation of musical and dance groups, and the presentation of photos and music of the young Gualaquiza artist Cristian Guarniso, representing the Committee in Defense of Life of Gualaquiza.

On Friday the 26th, the DECLARATION of the Gathering was drafted, where it was decided to conform a COORDINATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE AND NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, a coalition of communities and organizations dedicated to confront the plunderers of our national resources, violators of human rights and our sovereignty. This coalition is initially comprised of: Commission in Defense of the Environment of Victoria del Portete y Tarqui, Consortium of Parrish Boards of the Canton of Chordeleg, CONFEMEC (Azuay), Group of Women of Cuenca, Political Coordination of Women of the Community of El Lirio Racar Bajo, Parrish Board of Delegsol, Committee of Defense of Water (Octavio Cordero Palacios Parrish), Community of San Felipe de Molleturo, Popular Campesino Coordination of Morona Santiago, Committee in Defense of Life of Gualaquiza, Shuar Center of Kupiamais, Shuar Association of Bomboiza, Committee in Defense of Life of El Pangui (Zamora Chihchipe), Women's Front in Defense of Life of El Pangui, Shuar Association of El Pangui, Southern Resistance, Federation of Neighborhoods of Quito, Federation of Students of Ecuador FEUE, Network of Popular Ecologists of Ecuador, Assembly of La Floresta, Ecological Action, National Front for People's Health, Parrish Board of Pacto (Pichincha), Ecological Conservation and Defense of Intag (DECOIN), Junin Ecotourism (Intag).

Amoung the first actions carried out by the COORDINATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE AND NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY was the drafting and sending of a letter to the Ecuadorian Minister of Mining and Energy Alberto Acosta, where the participants of the Gathering addressed the ministry with their concerns, and where a meeting was requested where organizations and communities of the Coordination will present the conditions necessary to accept the call for a national dialogue made by the economist Acosta. These conditions are:

a) The country should enter into a moratorium in the issuing of new mining concessions.

b) The country must safeguard their national resources and security of their population, and therefore the large-scale mining activities must be suspended, suspending thus the mechanisms of extortion and fraud utilized by these companies against the local populations.

c) We propose that the national dialogue process begin with a proposal of a change of the national Constitution, giving priority to life and sovereignty before the sale and destruction of our resources. Depending upon the response of the Ministry, the Coordination will make decisions based upon the demands and urgent necessities of the different points of conflict with the transnational mining firms.

We are convinced that the unity achieved as a result of the Gathering will help us in the struggle against these foreign invaders, who will never be able to carry out their perverse plans against a people with dignity, ready to fight for justice and liberty.

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