March 08, 2012
On March 8, 2012 several hundred Indigenous people began a two week march across Ecuador to call attention to their protest of a large-scale open-pit copper mine. Ecuacorriente, a Chinese company, has been authorized by the Correa government to develop a mine near El Pangui, Zamora-Chinchipe Province, in the southern part of the country. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) representatives say the mining will contaminate water and force people off their lands and that Indigenous Peoples' rights to be consulted have not been respected. President Rafael Correa maintains that royalties and taxes from the mine and other large scale development projects will roads, schools and hospitals.
The protesters hope more people will join their protest along the 435 mile route from El Pangui in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest region to the country's capital city, Quito. They plan to reach Quito on March 22, which is World Water Day. Previous large scale protests by Indigenous groups have contributed to the toppling of two presidents, Abdala Bucaram in 1997 and Jamil Mahuad in 2000. Indigenous people in Ecuador make up 25-30 percent of the population.