Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

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This is a letter from some of the people that Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s neo-capitalist, authoritarian president, calls “infantile” and “romantic”, probably because they didn’t go to the fancy white man’s schools that the fine president attended to learn that most anti-human of trades called economics, which is some sort of brain washing thing where you are taught that the human being is an entirely self-interested, rational agent who just wants to go shopping and doesn’t care for her community.

The letter is from the Waorani women who are getting systematically killed by the oil industry, which is enjoying strong protection from the Ecuadorian state, led by Correa:

“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.”

Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades, according to the FDA. Contamination from the oil industry, forced relocations, militarized violence and civilization-borne diseases are the critical factors behind the process of extinction.”

Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

Lago Agrio, 6th of November 2008

We, as women, made this document in paper and in your language. We cannot speak to you because we live far away and because you don’t understand our language.

Look at this paper Mr. President, it contains our words, the words of the Waorani women.

We want to live in a large territory, our culture is based on a large territory, it is ours, not because the State decided so, but because God gave it to us, therefore we talk of our land, our children, our language. As our ancestors told us: without land, we cannot live.

We do not want that they continue to enter and continue to contaminate our land. The companies must leave our territory in peace, here lived our grandfathers and we want everything to be clean again like before. Before, oil companies entered our land without us being aware, they provoked many problems and diseases, this cannot continue.

If oil exploitation is not stopped, the companies will continue to destroy our territory. The companies must leave us in peace, we want clean rivers and forests.

We want the government to tell these companies of foreign countries to stay away. We don ‘t want oil companies to enter in our territory, never again. We want to live in peace and in good health. Oil companies shouldn’t come here, negotiations with them should be stopped.

You, as the government, should recognize our territory and you shouldn’t allow oil companies to enter in our territory.

We don’t want oil, nor wood exploitation in the whole of the Waorani territory. We aren’t a “Bloc” or oil concession, we are a territory where we live and where our grandfathers have lived.

Where will our children cultivate their crops when they reach our age? From what will they live?

For a long time, the Tagaeris and Taromenanes have had to live hidden from wood loggers, who have entered to steal the cedar. These people have asked our husbands to go into the forest with them to kill our own people, to kill our own race. The loggers want the Tagaeris and Taromenanes dead, so they can enter and steal the wood, because the Tagaeris defend their territories with their spears, like did our grandfathers. We want them to live in peace, nobody should bother them, nobody should want to kill them, no lumber companies should be allowed to enter our house.

We know that there are 3 oil blocs in Yasuní over which you are taking decisions: bloc 16, 31 and 43 (ITT). We want that the oil will not be exploited in these blocs. We want that in bloc 16, the company be obliged to clean what it has destroyed, we want them to leave the land as it was before.
Stop the contamination and the wood exploitation.

Many Waoranis negotiate with companies the things which the government should provide, the government should understand this. Many times, leaders meet with companies to negotiate while the community is not aware of that. The government should help the Waoranis to take care of their territory, they shouldn’t help the companies to destroy it.

We, Waorani women, will continue to insist through our organization because we also claim for our children.

Signed by women from the following communities: Tarangaro, Miwaguno, Kacataro, Teweno, Batavoro, Kiguaro, Dayuno, Ñoneno, Nemampare, Bameno, Kewairuno, Gareno, Tiguino, Wantaro.

Learn more about the Waorani people here:

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/929/49/

http://www.waorani.com/

http://intercontinentalcry.org/the-continuing-struggle-of-the-waorani/

8 thoughts on “Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

    colono responded:
    Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 15:35 (691)

    Here is another story to the ever growing evidence that Rafael Correa’s politrix are best described as neo-capitalist – from:
    http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1575/1/

    Danger Ahead: Correa Gives Mining the Green Light in Ecuador
    Written by Jennifer Moore
    Thursday, 13 November 2008

    Image
    Marimba band plays at anti-mining march
    Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a left-of-centre economist, has been celebrating a major victory since the new Ecuadorian constitution passed with 64% approval on Sept. 28. It expands access to social services for Ecuadorians and grants them the right to water, as well as highly lauded rights for nature.

    There is a “danger,” however, to the realization of his political project says Correa, and it is neither the old oligarchy nor transnational corporations that continue to have a strong influence. Speaking during a recent national radio address he said that the real threat lies among the “infantile” and “fundamentalist” environmental, indigenous and leftist groups who are staunchly opposed to metal mining.

    “It’s absurd to be seated on hundreds of billions of dollars and for romantic notions, novelty, fixations or whatever, to say no to mining. Yes to mining, but to environmentally, socially and economically responsible mining,” said Correa.

    The OPEC member nation has relied on oil exports for around 40 years that pay for roughly 40% of its national budget. But as oil reserves dry up, deposits of gold and copper are promoted as the future source of state revenue. No large scale project has yet reached production.

    The President has announced that he will deliver a new mining law to the interim legislative commission this week. He states that if the commission makes any substantial changes that he will veto the project and bring it to a national referendum.

    But despite pointed attacks from the President and promises to clamp down on protests, rural and environmentalist coalition groups joined by national and regional indigenous organizations are demanding that the law be shelved and that a mining mandate passed by the National Constituent Assembly in April be fully applied.

    The real danger they say is in continued dependence upon extractive industry, adding that introduction of large-scale metal mining will impinge upon territorial rights, cultural survival, food sovereignty and the right to water.

    On Monday, about 200 activists from around the country including executive members of the influential Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) participated in a festive march to the Canadian Embassy in Quito.

    Activists celebrated the impact that the economic crisis is having on investments. Canadian financed mining companies dominate over 90% investment in the nascent sector and Canadian stock exchanges have fallen from 40 to 50% since June.

    “We are mobilized to impede this activity from taking place in our territories and on our lands,” said environmentalist José Cueva from the northwestern area of Intag. A letter delivered to Embassy representatives states that Canadian miners are “unwelcome.” Further actions are anticipated during coming days and weeks.

    Image
    Protestors demand application of mining mandate
    Correa’s Campaign

    Since the National Constituent Assembly passed a mining mandate on April 18, national attention has shifted away from industry financed campaigns to state led promotion of the mining industry. Spearheaded by Correa, he has called concerns about possible contamination as a result of mining “myths” or “absurd fundamentalism” and has captured public opinion by conditioning the future of social programs on state income from mineral exports.

    “The conflict is no longer with the companies,” says Gloria Chicaiza from the Quito-based environmental organization Acción Ecológica. Popular interpretation has become that “those who oppose mining are now opposed to the President, and those who support the President are now in favor of mining.”

    Tantamount to being lumped in with the country’s despised right wing, activists are additionally accused of being “well-fed urbanites” with narrow minded ideals and of being paid by international mining interests that do not want to see Ecuador become a major mining power.

    Chicaiza says the President’s attacks “leave us not only de-legitimized, but also open to criminalization.” Most recently several activists, including well known leader Lina Solano of the National Coordinator in Defense of Life and Sovereignty, were accused of being a threat to national security for participation in protests against mining corporations and for demanding that the government apply the mining mandate.

    In fact, since the mining mandate was approved public sympathy has turned toward miners considered by Correa to have the necessary technology to do the job right. Initially called “a historic decision” and “a victory” by assembly members and activists, six months later activists are calling the mandate a “deception.”

    The mandate suspends all large scale mining activities until the new law is passed. It also orders most mineral concessions extinguished for reasons such as impacts on water, overlap with natural protected areas, as well as failure to carry out prior consultation with local communities and monopolization of more than three mineral concessions by any individual owner.

    Correa has said the mandate was necessary to “put their house in order,” but the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has not applied the above-mentioned criteria and the guidelines have not been extended to the draft law. As a result, companies such as Copper Mesa Mining (formerly Ascendant Copper), IAMGOLD and Corriente Resources maintain extensive concessions in biodiverse cloud forests, high altitude wetlands and at the headwaters of the Amazonian basin.

    Furthermore, as Correa and government sponsored advertising took over from industry campaigns “[the companies] were portrayed as victims” observes Chicaiza, and the number of workers affected by the suspension was inflated, “generating national compassion.”

    Now, clips of Correa threatening activists are regularly repeated on local radio stations raising fear amongst those concerned about mining and compounding insecurity created by mining interests in certain cases.

    ImageThe Responsibility Myth

    “Responsible mining; an irresponsible tale” read one banner carried through the streets to the Canadian Embassy in Quito on Monday. The high energy demonstration accompanied by drums, a marimba and a five piece marching band aimed to draw attention once again to Canadian interests and their involvement in Ecuadorian concerns.

    Three community representatives were permitted to enter the Embassy to deliver their letter to Canadian government authorities who reportedly had to receive permission from Ottawa to hold the informal meeting. Inty Arcos, an environmentalist from the Province of Pichincha told an assistant to Ambassador Christian Lapointe, “You are deciding about our future without consulting us.”

    The community delegate reported that Canadian officials said “it is not our fault, but rather that of your government and the policies that you adopt.” The official is said to have added “we can not say to your government that they make the laws to favor communities.”

    “They will not [lobby on our behalf],” reflects Arcos, “but they can lobby for transnational corporations to enter communities without ever mentioning the blood, death and destruction to people and nature that this entails.”

    Mining related conflicts in Ecuador have already resulted in several deaths as well as two armed confrontations reported to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights that implicate Copper Mesa Mining (formerly Ascendant Copper) and Ecuacorriente S.A. (one of two fully owned subsidiaries belonging to Vancouver-based Corriente Resources).

    Whistleblower Esther Landetta, who has been fighting water contamination from small scale mining in the coastal province of Guayas, is also currently under state protection as a result of death threats from assassins known to be linked with mining interests.

    But while communities continue to protest that they have never been fairly consulted over mega-mining developments, Correa has officially given representatives of Canadian-financed companies a privileged seat at discussions over the new law. Canadian Ambassador Lapointe has also played an important role facilitating their ongoing participation and several companies include former Ecuadorian government officials within their boards of directors.

    Economic and democratic dangers

    Correa, however, reassures the public: “We are clear that the main beneficiaries should be the communities located where projects are taking place,” he said during a recent national radio address emphasizing that state income from the reintroduction of mining royalties will contribute to local development projects. Royalties are proposed at a minimum of 5%.

    However, based upon the current economic crisis, activists further argue that continued dependency on primary goods which are subject to wild fluctuations on international markets is dangerous.

    Ecuador’s current economic vulnerability has recently been in evidence. The Washington Post reported this month that it is one of the hardest hit in Latin America by the economic crisis as a result of dependence on oil exports as well as agricultural products such as bananas, flowers and shrimp.

    But the draft law prioritizes mining activities over other land uses by declaring them a public utility and opening the door for land expropriations. Furthermore, absence of mechanisms to substantially limit or prohibit mining in protected areas, headwaters, and populated areas leads lawyers and activists to call the law “a continuation” of past development perspectives shaped by agencies such as the World Bank.

    One of the few interim legislative commission members outspoken about mining, Martha Roldós, challenges the President for calling them a threat to his project.

    She says that they would support him should he be working toward a social development model based upon solidarity. She also laments that Correa finds it “so uncomfortable” that they would “defend the constitution which has been approved by vote and to demand that the mining mandate be applied, also passed by vote.”

    Roldós, from the Ethics and Democracy Network political party (RED), rejects threats against environmental and human rights defenders and says “It should be the authorities that have not implemented the mining mandate that should be penalized…as well as those who are pursuing [activists] with death threats.”

    Noting a certain “docility” within the current law making body, she says the shortage of critical voices, such as past President of the National Constituent Assembly Alberto Acosta and former Secretary of Communications and past Assembly member Mónica Chuji, does not bode well for strong debate over the upcoming mining law. “There needs to be people protesting outside.”

    However, she also admits the difficulty of this within the current context in which Correa “has managed to demobilize the country with his discourse.”

    Local development also at stake

    Sharing the hope that growing alliances between environmentalist, rural and indigenous organizations will be able to inject new life into Ecuador’s mining debate, Gloria Chicaiza concludes, “The President thinks that this will contribute to local development.”

    “But in the end he is going to jeopardize what he purports to favor,” she says. “It will destroy local developments because this entails imposing a model over others that already exist – some that have functioned and some that have problems – but mining is not the solution. We have the opportunity to rethink this model and declare Ecuador free of mining to be able to build a series of alternatives that can help us not to be so dependent.”

    goldenz said:
    Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 21:21 (931)

    I see you are very critical of Correa. Your criticisms are totally justified. However, what do you propose as an alternative considering all those living in urban areas (in ecuador) are dependent on such resources (ie oil/transport for food)? Do you think indigenous “territories” should disband from the nation state? What about indigenous groups reliant on certain goods from other regions of the country? I believe indigenous people should get what they want. But what about areas in Ecuador that have been touched by certain technologies already or connected by them (ie produce markets in highland ecuador->amazon basin )? Or maybe what kind of political reform would you suggest to cater the needs of the entire state? I realize you have anarchist sentiments.

    colono responded:
    Friday, November 28, 2008 at 11:11 (508)

    Relevant, indeed good question. It is a complex mess and we cannot offer a definitive solution – and those who claim that they can, like the neo-capitalists, are charlatans.

    In the best case scenario: Yes, declaring autonomy is probably the only way forward.

    Like the Zapatistas and in part the Sarayaku have done, demanding autonomy seems like a good idea and quite possibly the only way to save what is left of the Amazon. Send in UN peace keeping troops and block the capitalists and their nation states from destroying the region even more. Correa is hell bent on extracting the last drop of oil and the last little nugget of gold, that much is clear, but what will be left in the end?

    Is it really a solution to destroy nature in order to survive? Will it work? Can we live on concrete with no water?

    Like you say, colonos have anarchist sentiments, and that means theories and experimental practices of organisation, really, and not any finished designs or blue prints for the planet, but it seems obvious that current trajectories will result in social and environmental disasters – indeed, it has already begun, with El Alto and Lima, just to mention a few, running out of water and millions of people are seeking to the cities – more and more will come…

    Graeber says it well: we’re conditioned to believe that there are no alternatives, but the current ways of doing things are no good either, so something has to happen and more extraction and more authoritarian politics, like Correa stands for, are backwards measures and an insult to intelligence.

    People in the Amazon could grow a lot more food than they do, they could collect rain water, neither of which they are accustomed to, having been a culture of abundance for thousands of years. In general, the permaculture movement has a lot to offer the Amazon.

    goldenz said:
    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 13:10 (590)

    I dont think its a good plan to destroy nature to survive or to sustain the capitalist status quo….which is the foundation of most “sustainability” debates these days. Permaculture is a cool technology. I’m a fan. It is design with “nature”. I think all the vacant lots in cities should be turned into gardens. Those who usually work permaculture gardens are those who usually eat from the permaculture garden. This isnt a bad thing (socially and environmentally). It is a philosophy in itself. Clearly, not extractive in the same way as mining or oil with regard to environmental collapse.

    However, permaculture is extractive. Remember it does mean less biodiversity, (ie. Less birds, fungi, insects…). And I agree, I have yet to see a human fully mimic “nature’s” design with a blueprint. Mini-permaculture gardens can be scaled up in size, like in many capitalist ecovillages in california. But at the same time, I would worry about its implications for biodiversity loss as an autonomous region’s population grew. I know population is not an indicator of carrying capacity, but people do….do it (especially on farms). Thanks for your comments.

    colono responded:
    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 13:25 (601)

    Thank you for your comments! However, I don’t understand what you mean by:

    “permaculture is extractive. Remember it does mean less biodiversity, (ie. Less birds, fungi, insects…)”

    .. the permaculture projects I know of (I do in fact also have a certificate in Permaculture design) have a very strong focus on enhancing biodiversity. Indeed, that is one of the core values in permaculture, including, for instance, not exterminating wasps despite (being a right pain in the neck) because they eat pests etc.

    Here is an abstract I just googled – from http://www.sare.org/sanet-mg/archives/html-home/25-html/0453.html:

    Permaculture, the contraction of permanent agriculture as well as permanent culture, is a design system for constructing sustainable human settlements that focus on the functional connections between species, and between humans and their environment. In this proposal permaculture principles are shown to correlate to specific aspects and values of biodiversity. Permaculture design incorporates utilitarian, intrinsic and cooperative values of biodiversity. To a permaculturist, indigenous ecosystem integrity and species richness are secondary to the functional relationships between
    species in a consciously designed system. Deliberate attention is paid to minimizing energy budgets and building small-scale intensive systems because of their manageability and efficiency. Permaculture designs can be implemented in virtually any environment, from desert to city, and with people of limited resources. As such, permaculture offers a cooperative means of subsistence that integrates humans with their environment to create a sustainable human and non-human ecology.

    Moreover – from

    http://www.permaculture.org.uk/mm.asp?mmfile=Article_Eating_the_view

    Imagine a system that delivers productive landscapes and biodiversity, and where humans are an integral part of that same system. Permaculture provides a route towards such a vision, founded as it is on ethics and principles, along with a practical toolbox of ideas and techniques, which serve to empower people to adopt sustainable lifestyles. The Countryside Agency exhorts us to ‘eat the view’ and English Nature wishes to reconnect people and wildlife, but in practical terms, how can the conservation movement further these aims? Drawing upon examples from Gloucestershire, Lancashire and West Yorkshire we will demonstrate how permaculture may provide direction and inspiration to promote meaningful interaction with local environments in a way that fosters long-term sustainability, human well-being and enhanced biodiversity.

    colono responded:
    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 13:30 (604)

    Here is a blurp from one of our favourite permaculture projects:
    http://www.landmatters.org.uk/

    “The co-operative’s members have a diverse range of backgrounds and skills such as sustainable land use, organic horticulture, woodland management and wood crafts, ecology of biodiversity, conservation, arts, education, group facilitation and working within co-operative structures. Most are trained in Permaculture design.
    The residents have the intention to create a thriving low impact community, a place where we can explore ways of living gently on the earth and inspire others to do the same. We feel this is an appropriate thing to do in order to take personal responsibility for climate change and the current environmental crisis. We also wish to live like this out of a sense of responsibility to future generations.”

    goldenz said:
    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 14:22 (640)

    i think it depends on where you are at and how much detail you put into the design. I guess its not impossible. It just seems it would be very difficult in the tropics. ive seen the desert ones….Tropical settings are really different. (which you know) There are a few articles under the heading “agro-forestry” which I know were on permaculture farms in costa rica which have suggested that it has led to a decline in biodiversity …..so by detailed i mean primary forest secondary forest etc…. permaculture can definately increase biodiversity in areas already damaged…..and manage it in sensitive areas….but i would still worry for those sensitive “untouched” areas…..the articles were in human ecology and conservation biology i think.
    I totally want to live in one of those communities.

    goldenz said:
    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 14:27 (643)

    im not saying humans are doomed to be dominators of their environments.

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