Once the backbone of President Rafael Correa’s support, the government is persecuting Ecuador’s indigenous population with heavy charges in an attempt to curb social protest.
According to the Center for Economic and Social Rights, a rights group, 189 indigenous Ecuadorians have been charged with terrorism, sabotage and other crimes against public safety. The charges appear to be a means of social control.
“This government has declared war on the indigenous so that we shut our mouths, to terrorize us,” said Delfín Tenesaca, president of the Kichwa Confederation of Ecuador, or Ecuarunari, in a press conference July 18, local media reported. Tenesaca is facing charges of terrorism for his participation in a 2010 march that led to clashes with police. Also charged is Marlon Santi, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or Conaie, one of Ecuador’s most influential indigenous organizations.
Indigenous rights groups and observers have complained that Correa’s government has tried to divide the indigenous movement, which has grown more critical of his administration and its policies on water rights and exploitation of natural resources such as oil and minerals.
The Center for Economic and Social Rights argued that Correa’s government is attempting to criminalize protests against his policies.
Humberto Hurtado, a researcher at the organization, said that authorities now consider measures of protest such as road blockades and the cutting of power as terrorism.