Members of Ecuarunari, Ecuador’s national confederation of the peoples of Kichwa nationality, said three of their leaders were kidnapped and threatened Wednesday by workers of the mining company Ecuagoldinmining, property of Hong Kong-based Junefield Mineral Resources Holdings Ltd.
The kidnapping occurred as members of seven Indigenous communities occupied the encampment of the the Rio Blanco mining project, near the southern Andean city of Cuenca. Indigenous communities have opposed the gold mining project, which has now entered the phase of exploitation, over the past 16 years.
They argue it will destroy water resources and threaten the paramo, a special ecosystem in the Andes where vast amounts of water are produced, in the Cajas National Park.
The three leaders were attacked on their way to the mining project in Rio Blanco. According to reports the attackers destroyed their car's tires and threatened to ignite the vehicle with them inside.
The three men, Yaku Perez Guartambel, Mario Farez and Victor Hernandez were held for seven hours.
Wednesday night there were reports of state security forces, including the police and the military shooting at protesters. In the video a protester can clearly be heard yelling "don't shoot at people."
According to a public statement the communities demanded “justice and peace… This peace means the immediate reversal of mining concessions in Rio Blanco and the national territory, and the return of the transnationals mining companies to their countries of origin.”
The governor of the province of Azuay, Xavier Enderica, said people outside of the community were responsible for the violence and affirmed that 200 police and military officers recovered control over the mine.
According to the police four protesters are under preventive arrest. One is being investigated for allegedly harming a police officer with a stone, and the other three for starting a fire that affected the dorms and the infirmary.
The protesters have received support from several environmental and Indigenous organizations across the country.
Protesters say “those directly responsible for violence and human rights violation are the Ecuadorean government, with its provincial authorities governor Xavier Enderica and national President Lenin Moreno. Allied with transnational extractive companies that have no qualms in stepping on out rights.”