Annual Congresses of Indigenous Leaders of the Amazon

March 01, 2009 | By The Pachamama Alliance

Several indigenous organizations of the Amazon held their Annual Congresses and Assemblies to elect new governing councils and to present their annual reports to constituents. These Assemblies took place in the midst of the controversial approval of the New Mining Law by the Government of Ecuador (see story below).

FIPSE (Independent Federation of the Achuar in Ecuador): FIPSE convened its Congress from February 26 - March 1, in Makuma, in the province of Morona Santiago. Luis Yampi, a leader of CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), emphasized the importance of unity within the indigenous movement especially during these crucial times when the Government has agreed to extractive mining activities in the Amazon to guarantee resources for the state.  Another position of alarm for the indigenous movement was the Government’s elimination of inclusion of the Delegate of the Council of Nationalities and Towns of Ecuador. The delegate indicated that the successes of the Indigenous Movement in the 1990s are eroding, with the present government eliminating access to important spaces in government entities little by little. In other news, the Shuar people stated their hope to consolidate the process of titling their territories, as well as to strengthen the defense of their territory against extractive activities.

NAE (Achuar Nationality of Ecuador): NAE convened its Congress from February 21 - 27 in the Community of Charapacocha, with participation of 261 official delegates of 10 Associations of the Nationality. NAE elected new leaders to represent them for the next three years: Germán Freire is the newly elected President, and Domingo Tanchim its new Vice President. In addition, various leaders of NAE and the institutions with whom they collaborate presented their annual reports and proposals for 2009, including Fundacion Pachamama, and the Achuar owned companies (namely Aerotsentsak, the aviation company, and CEKSA, the tourism company that manages the Kapawi Lodge). NAE confirmed continuation of  work being done with Fundacion Pachamama, including the following: finalizing the process of titling the Achuar territory, obtaining a global title, and continuing activities that help them improve their quality life, such as fish farming.  They approved moving forward with the “Jungle Mamas” project that teaches prenatal, birth and newborn emergency care to communities in the Achuar territory.

The Controversial New Mining Law

The CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), is in a constant struggle with the National Government to guarantee their rights.  The Indigenous Movement has firmly opposed the New Mining Law and has demanded that it be deemed unconstitutional.  Fundacion Pachamama is supporting CONAIE and all indigenous towns in exercising their collective rights, by providing legal support to meet the demands of the Ecuadorian state regarding these extraction policies. On Tuesday March 17, 2009 CONAIE made official its position against the New Mining Law and published the following Press Bulletin that summarizes their position: The CONAIE, considering that the New Mining Law, effective from now on, violates the fundamental rules of the Constitution, indigenous rights, and human rights that are consecrated in the Constitution and other International instruments, has decided to interpose a demand for unconstitutionality.

Some of the principal arguments that will be considered are the following:
1.    Violation to Free, Prior and Informed Consultation
2.    Violation to the principle of Division and Hierarchy of Laws
3.    Violation to the Rights of Land, Territories and Resources of Indigenous People

The most recent oil spill of the heavy crude pipeline in Ecuador (for related news story, click here… ), is forceful and irrefutable proof that transnational companies deceive the country by affirming that they use ¨safe technology¨.  Mining on a large scale will lead the country to environmental and social situations that are unforeseeable and irreversible.  It is an obligation of the Corte Constitucional to guarantee to all Ecuadorians: health, a healthy environment free of contamination, water and security.