Ecuador: Indigenous Tribes’ Militant Resistance to ‘left’ Correa Government

Feb 10, 2013

“To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us”

The most-storied warrior tribe in Ecuador prepares to fight as the government sells gold-laden land to China

By Alexander Zaitchik, Salon.com

Photographs by Beth Wald

Of the thousands of “Avatar” screenings held during the film’s record global release wave, none tethered the animated allegory to reality like a rainy day matinee in Quito, Ecuador.

It was late January 2010 when a non-governmental organization bused Indian chiefs from the Ecuadorean Amazon to a multiplex in the capital. The surprise decampment of the tribal congress triggered a smattering of cheers, but mostly drew stares of apprehension from urban Ecuadoreans who attribute a legendary savagery to their indigenous compatriots, whose violent land disputes in the jungle are as alien as events on “Avatar’s” Pandora.

The chiefs — who watched the film through plastic 3-D glasses perched beneath feathered headdress — saw something else in the film: a reflection. The only fantastical touches they noticed in the sci-fi struggle were the blue beanstalk bodies and the Hollywood gringo savior. “As in the film, the government here has closed the dialogue,” a Shuar chief told a reporter after the screening. “Does this mean that we do something similar to the film? We are ready.”

Three years after “Avatar’s” Quito premiere, declarations of martial readiness are multiplying and gaining volume throughout the tribal territories of Ecuador’s mountainous southeast. The warnings bare sharpest teeth in the Shuar country of the Cordillera del Condor, the rain forest mountain range targeted by President Rafael Correa for the introduction of mega-mining.

In recent years, the quickening arrival of drills and trenchers from China and Canada has provoked a militant resistance that unites the local indigenous and campesino populations. The stakes declared and the violence endured by this battle-scarred coalition is little-known even in Ecuador, where Correa has made muscular use of state security forces in arresting activists and intimidating journalists who threaten his image as an ecologically minded man-of-the-people. This repression has only intensified in the run-up to Correa’s expected reelection on Feb. 17.

[Domingo Ankwash, a Shuar leader and president of the Asociacion Bomboiza, is leading the fight against proposed large scale mines in the Cordillera del Condor.]

My guide to this simmering “Avatar” in the Amazon was a 57-year-old Shuar chief named Domingo Ankuash. Like many elder Shuar, Ankuash does not appear to be blustering when he says he will die defending his ancestral lands in the province of Morona-Santiago, which borders Peru. Early in my month traveling the Condor, he took me deep into the country for which he is prepared to lay down his life. After a steep two hours’ hike from his village, we arrived at a forest clearing of densely packed earth. Through the trees and hanging vines, a 40-foot waterfall replenished a deep rock-strewn lagoon. The cascade is one of thousands in the Condor cordillera, a rolling buffer between the cliffs of the eastern Andes and the continental flatness of the Amazon basin. Continue reading

Avatar in the Amazon: James Cameron warns of violence over Brazil dam

[In their appeals to international organizations, corporations and governments to change their policies, sections of various movements–indigenous, environmentalist, human rights–organized in NGOs and coalitions, have appealed to and won support from prominent entertainers, who have lent their skills and resources to publicize certain issues. Grassroots forces, anti-imperialists, and revolutionaries are challenged to sum up this strategy and its effect in terms of actually effecting policy change–and its effect on the political independence and initiative of grassroots forces, who are often dissuaded from systemic  challenges and drawn into “Hollywood-ized” appeals for policy reform. Is this an inevitable result of such efforts? — Frontlines ed.]
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“A Message From Pandora

by AmazonWatch Aug 30, 2010

Take action now to join the battle: http://bit.ly/AWatch

“A Message from Pandora” is a special feature produced by James Cameron about the battle to stop the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu, one of the great tributaries of the Amazon River.
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron on Thursday said tribes in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest could turn to violence to block construction of a massive dam.

“The Kayapo are going to fight,” Cameron told AFP in Washington, where he was named an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic.

“They’re not going to just shrug and walk away. They’re the most aggressive tribe in the area” of the Xingu River basin, where the Brazilian government is forging ahead with plans to build the $11 billion Belo Monte dam, in spite of locals repeatedly lodging protests against the project. Continue reading