End Terrorism Against Indigenous Leaders

Target: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa

Goal: End terrorism against indigenous leaders in Ecuador, who are simply trying to save their homelands and people from exploitation.

The world is increasingly turning its attention to the few places that have not yet been drilled for oil, logged, mined, or exploited. The only problem? People live there already and don’t want their homeland to turn into a strip mine. When indigenous leaders go to speak up about their rights, they are often threatened or murdered, like indigenous Shuar leader José Isidro Tendetza. This is terrorism, plain and simple, and it targets some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

At least 116 environmental activists around the world were murdered in 2014 and the numbers rise every year. 40% of them are indigenous. According to those statistics, the number of indigenous activists murdered is twice the number of journalists–including war journalists–that have died violent deaths. This is unacceptable.

As a prime example, lawyer Mario Melo alleges that the government in Ecuador did not obtain consent from indigenous Shuar people to allow a Chinese company to drill on their homelands; three indigenous leaders have since died violent deaths in the past six years. José Isidro Tendetza is the third death. He filed a complaint against the Chinese company and set out to attend a protest meeting; his body was found four days later in an unmarked grave, showing signs of torture and strangulation. The cause of death was originally termed drowning, and his family expresses a growing lack of faith in the Ecuadorean government to actually prosecute the correct criminals. Terrorism is the only word for what the Tendetza family’s persecution is a symptom of: violence intended for the pursuit of political aims.  End this now.


Dear President Correa,

You made promises to the world and your people about respecting the environment in Ecuador. Uphold these promises and don’t turn a blind eye to terrorism against your own citizens. You should not discount people willing to die for what you term “infantile environmentalism.” Selling out your forests and your people is not the way to reach real prosperity and such actions are beyond the pale, morally. It is also shortsighted. Mining is only a finite source of wealth.

If you are seeking to pay back your debts to China, surely there are other ways to accomplish this objective than condoning environmental degradation and human rights abuses. By covering up or ignoring terrorism, you condone it. Your people will lose faith in government channels and use other routes to achieve their demands. This all chips away at rule of law and, ultimately, it is a strong rule of law–keeping promises, building trust, creating norms for following the law because the law is trustworthy–that will help your country in the long run. The Shuar people have existed on their homelands for far longer than Ecuador has been a country. If they don’t have a legal right to their homeland, then who does?


[Your Name Here]

Image Credit: Sarah Driver

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