Ecuador: NO to mining in the rainforest #LibertadparaJavierRamirez

Javier Ramírez standing in front of rainforest plants Jailed community leader Javier Ramírez is fighting to preserve the Intag cloud forest. (© Javier Ramirez)
78,254 supporters

End of campaign: Apr 27, 2015

The beautiful cloud forests of Ecuador’s Intag region have a fatal flaw – they are standing on a deposit of copper ore. Villagers opposed to plans for a giant open-cast mine are being harassed and criminalized. Community leader Javier Ramírez has been jailed on fabricated charges for ten months. Please call for his immediate release.

Call to action

To: President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Quito

Call on the Ecuadorian authorities to scrap their plans for a copper mine in the Intag cloud forest and release Javier Ramírez immediately!

Read letter

“Javier Ramírez stands for the Ecuadorian people and the entire world,” said singer Jaime Guevara on the TVN network. “Accusing him of terrorism and locking him away for many years for protesting an injustice by the government is not fair.”

Ramírez was arrested on April 10, 2014 for an alleged altercation with officials of ENAMI, the state mining company. He denies this, and witnesses testify that Ramírez was at home recovering from an injury on the day in question.

He has been behind bars on remand for ten months and the charges against him have been trumped up to include rebellion, sabotage and terrorism. According to observers, his trial in late January was a farce and the prosecution was unable to present solid evidence of a criminal offense. Ramírez is nevertheless due to be sentenced on February 10 and faces up to six years in prison.

In Ecuador, people and groups that protest the destruction of the environment are exposed to systematic threats, coercion and criminalization with the approval of the highest levels of government.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has repeatedly defamed environmentalists, human rights activists and indigenous people: “Do not believe the romantic environmentalists – anyone who opposes the development of the country is a terrorist.” 

Amnesty International and numerous other organizations from around the world have demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Javier Ramírez and the dismissal of all charges against him and his brother Hugo.

Please sign our petition to the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, calling on him to scrap the copper mining project and release Ramírez immediately.

#LibertadparaJavierRamírez – freedom for Javier Ramírez!

Back­ground

Copper mine in Intag (Llurimagua project)

ENAMI, the state-owned Ecuadorian mining company, and CODELCO, a copper company belonging to the Chilean state, intend to develop and operate the Llurimagua copper mine in the cloud forests of the Intag region north of the capital Quito.

Local residents have staunchly opposed the development of the mine ever since the ore deposit was discovered in the 1980s. The Ecuadorian government had previously issued two mining concessions – to Bishimetals, a Japanese mining company, and to Ascendant Copper of Canada – but in both cases, protests by the people of Intag succeeded in getting the companies to abandon the project. Rainforest Rescue has been supporting their cause for almost 20 years.

Protest outside the courthouse

Facing a strong presence of riot police, numerous Intag residents and environmental activists gathered in front of the courthouse for a peaceful protest during the trial of Javier Ramírez on January 30:

“We’re doing what we’ve always done for the past 20 years”, José Cueva explained to the TVN network. “We have supreme respect for our Mother Earth; we want to protect our water and propose numerous alternative projects to keep us from falling into the trap of mining and relentless development.”

The government sees commodities as the key to the future

The Ecuadorian government wants to fill its coffers by exploiting the country’s mineral wealth – oil, natural gas, copper, gold and molybdenum – for export to the industrialized countries.

President Rafael Correa’s administration is relying heavily on Canadian and Chinese companies. China has granted Ecuador billions of dollars in loans for social programs and extensive infrastructure and industrial projects.

The government’s plans do not leave any room for the rainforests or their inhabitants, however. Anyone who stands in the way of the projects or criticizes Correa’s “21st-century socialism” is living dangerously.

Environmentalists and indigenous people are “terrorists”

People and groups that protest the destruction of the environment are subjected to systematic threats, coercion and criminalization with the approval of the highest levels of government. Ecuador’s President Correa has repeatedly accused environmentalists, human rights activists and indigenous people of being infantile and backward. Correa: “Do not believe the romantic environmentalists – anyone who opposes the development of the country is a terrorist.”

Intag activists have frequently found themselves at the receiving end of Correa’s attacks. In Urgent Action – Ecuador: Fear for Safety of Environmental Activists, Amnesty International writes: “...on 28 September, President Rafael Correa broadcast photos and details of Intag activists, including Carlos Zorrilla, during his weekly televised address to the nation. He characterized their activities as “destabilizing” and as foreign-led interference with government policies. During another televised speech on 7 December, the President accused Carlos Zorrilla and other individuals again of defending foreign interests and called on the Ecuadorians to react.” 

Carlos Zorrilla is a founding member of Intag Environmental Defense and Conservation (Defensa y Conservación Ecologica de Intag, DECOIN), an organization working to protect the ecosystem of the Intag region.

Members of German parliament unwelcome

A delegation of the German parliament that wanted to travel to Yasuní, an Ecuadorian national park in the Amazon rainforest threatened by oil drilling, was refused entry by the Ecuadorian Interior Ministry.

For good measure, President Correa also canceled official development cooperation with Germany in the environmental sector. In one of his television addresses, he even offered to transfer twice the amount of Germany’s international development aid back to Germany, suggesting that German policymakers should spend the money on courses in etiquette.

Killings of indigenous people

The president’s verbal aggression has bred a climate of intolerance and hatred. Many indigenous people in Ecuador have been killed for standing up against oil and copper mining projects in the rainforest.

According to the Guardian, indigenous leader José Isidro Tendetza Antun was last seen alive on his way to a meeting of protesters against the Mirador mine on November 28, 2014. His body was found on December 2 on the banks of the Zamora River in southern Ecuador – beaten, with broken bones and his hands tied behind his back.

The authorities had buried the body in an anonymous grave and did not notify his next of kin, presumably to cover up his death. As a leader of the Shuar people, José stood in the way of the vast Mirador mine on the border to Peru. 

Mirador mining project

In the words of President Correa, the Mirador mine in the Amazon rainforest will usher in a new era of mining. “Ecuador could have the second largest copper mine in the world”, he said. “We can no longer sit as beggars on a pot of gold.” The Chinese mining company EcuaCorriente intends to produce 2.9 million tons of copper for export in Mirador.

TVN broadcast on the protest outside the courthouse in Ibarra on Jan 30, 2015 (in Spanish):

Inicio audiencia de juzgamiento de Javier Ramírez

Please also tweet for Javier Ramírez' release at #ForFreedom 

Letter

To: President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Quito

Mr. President,

Javier Ramírez, a family man, farmer and spokesman of the village of Junin (Intag, Cotacachi, Imbabura) has been detained in custody since April 10, 2014. He was allegedly involved in an altercation with officials of ENAMI, the state mining company.

Ramírez denies this, and several witnesses testify that he was at home recovering from an injury on the day in question. Since his arrest, rebellion, sabotage and terrorism have been added to the charges against him. Evidence of a palpable criminal offense has not been presented, however.

Instead, it appears that Javier Ramírez is being criminalized by the state authorities for his opposition to a proposed copper mine – a position he shares with numerous residents of Intag. It seems that this is a measure designed to break the resistance against the mining project.

Accessing the deep copper deposits and accommodating huge dumps of toxic spoil will mean stripping the cloud forest cover of the slopes of the Toisan Range, diverting rivers and demolishing several villages, including Junin.

Javier Ramírez is due to be sentenced on February 10, 2015. Environmental and human rights organizations from around the world are calling for his immediate and unconditional release. I also call on you to put an end to the continuous police presence in the village of Junin. The villagers feel that they are living in a permanent state of emergency due to this harassment.

Please protect the rights of Ecuadorian citizens and do not sacrifice the unique Intag environment to a mining operation.

Sincerely,

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