Ecuador Human Rights

Defend the rights of communities in Ecuador

Texaco's two decades-long operations in Ecuador's Amazon region appear to be stained with oil spillages and intentional toxic waste dumping. This negligence has polluted both the land and groundwater supply of the communities living in the area while continually posing a threat to their health, economic and cultural survival.

For over four decades, Indigenous communities have witnessed multinational oil companies cut through their ancestral lands in search of the country's vast petroleum resources. According to the report "Amazon Crude", Texaco alone was responsible for dumping 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the region contaminating the drinking water of Ecuador's Amazon communities.

Scores of demonstrators were arbitrarily detained and ill-treated during mass protests against new legislation on the use of natural resources. Intimidation and threats against human rights defenders, including Indigenous and community leaders, were reported.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders, particularly Indigenous and community leaders, were intimidated and harassed. Community leaders and human rights defenders were among the scores of protesters arbitrarily detained and ill-treated in the context of mass demonstrations against the new mining law.

  • In January, human rights defender Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego was shot and seriously injured while being forced into a police car. He was detained without a warrant, accused of sabotaging public services during mass demonstrations against the mining law. He was held incommunicado for 18 days during which time he was beaten and threatened with death. He was later released and all charges were dropped.
  • In January, three human rights defenders, Etelvina de Jesús Misacango Chuñir, Virginia Chuñir, and Yolanda Gutama, were detained and beaten by police officers in Molleturo, Azuay province. They were accused of blockading roads during protests against the mining law earlier that month. The three women were conditionally released the following day. On 22 April, Etelvina de Jesús Misacango Chuñir was attacked by four men outside her home in the town of Molleturo. The attack was believed to have been carried out in reprisal for her opposition to mining in the area.
  • An NGO, Acción Ecológica, which had worked on environmental issues for over 20 years, had its legal status withdrawn between March and August. The move appeared to be an attempt to silence public criticism of the mining law.

Corporate accountability

In April, a Canadian law firm filed a claim against a Canadian mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange on behalf of three people from the Intag area in Canton Cotacachi, Imbabura province. The woman and two men alleged that they had been assaulted in 2006 by private security guards acting for the company. One of the men also said that he had been subjected to threats and intimidation in several incidents in 2005, 2006 and 2007 by people allegedly linked to the company. They alleged that they were targeted because of their campaign against the opening of a copper mine in the area. The Toronto Stock Exchange was alleged to have facilitated the funding of the company despite being made aware of the potential harm to individuals. The case was pending before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at the end of the year.

The ruling by the Provincial Court of Lago Agrio in a case brought by local communities in 1993 was deferred until 2010. The communities alleged that the oil company Chevron (formerly Texaco) was responsible for environmental damage during more than two decades of oil extraction.

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