For More information contact in the U.S.:
% South and Meso American Indian Information Center (SAIIC): (510) 834-4263
% Rainforest Action Network (RAN): (415) 398-4404
% OXFAM America: (617) 482-1211
In Ecuador: Carlos Viteri, Gustavo Gonzales, Peter Veilleux (OPIP c/o Accion Ecologica) : 593-2-547-516
(The following releases were sent to SAIIC for translation and disemmination by the Organization of Indigenous People of Pastaza (OPIP).
April 2, 1992 (Ecuador) The Peoples of the province of Pastaza under the umbrella of OPIP and members of The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, (CONAIE) will begin a peaceful march beginning April 11, a march to demand that the government legally recognize the ancestral territories of the Quichua, the Shiwiar and the Achuar Nations.
After 20 years of oil exploitation and two and a half years of fruitless dialogue between the national administration and the Indians, the government refused to legalize the Indian territories, a continues to accomodate exploitative interests such as gold, tourism, timber and oil.
The marchers demand:
1.) The legalization of their territories
2.) The amendment of the constitution to reflect the rights of the plurinational and multicutural reality that is Ecuador today.
We the Quichua, Shiwiar and Achuar people, united in the Organization of Indian People of Pastaza *OPIP* have decided that it is necessary for us to walk from our home in the Amazon rainforest tot he city of Quito, high in the Andes. We made this decision after nearly three years of fruitless dialogue with the Ecuadoran government. We are attempting to obtain title to our lands and the government is refusing to oblige us. We will walk to the capitaol to demand our legal rights to our lands. This long walk follows the path of our ancestral chiefs *Curagas* who walked from our villages to Quito in the last century to speak with the president about our rights to our territories. Today, 2,000 Indian people, representing 148 communities and the three Indian nationalities which compromise OPIP will march more than 500 kilometres from the Amazonian rainforest to the Government Palace in Quito.
Many of our Indian brothers and sisters are currently marching to the city of Puyo, where we will unite on April 11 to continue on together to the city of Quito.
This march is of great significance to our people. Our lives and the life of our territory and rainforest depend on it. We want to share this journey not only with our brothers and sisters here in Ecuador, but also with the Indigenous peoples of the world. For this reason we are inviting you to participate in the gathering in Puyo on April 11th, or during the 15 days of the march, as well as for our arrival in Quito at the end of April. We know that your presence will fortify our message of peace, dignity, and justice and will inspire us during our long journey to Quito.
Sincerely, Leonardo Viteri Coordinator of OPIP
Province of Pastaza is Militarized
Union Base, headquarters to CONFENAIE, as well as roads of access from the indigenous communities of Pastaza to Puyo, have been militarized this Wednesday, April 8th, denounced Antonio Vargas, president of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza, OPIP.
Twelve military men occupied the bilingual school which functions in Union Base. Also, throughout the access roads to the City of Puyo, uniformed men have proceeded to intimidate the indigenous people who are participating in the peaceful march towards Quito, which is being organized by OPIP.
OPIP demands, Antonio Vargas said, an official statement from the Ministry of Government, because in addition to the intimidation there has also been a campaign of misinformation waged by the Government of Pastaza, and Cesar Sarmiento, coordinating the campaign, refuses to explain why he is carrying out a "contra" demonstration in coordination with IERAC, the Chamber of Agriculture of the Cuarta Zona (IV Zone) and FEDECAP.
OPIP re-asserts that the march is a peaceful one, and that its goals have been already explained to the country in past hours.
It is not true that the indigenous Peoples of Pastaza are in dispute with the landowners who already have their lands. The proposals of OPIP are clear and precise in reference to territorial delimitation/ demarcation excluding landowners' properties, the fundamental motive of the peaceful march, expressed the indigenous leader.
In the last hours, the province of Pastaza has witnessed intmidating flights of military helicopters over Canelos, Union Base and the vias Puyo Tena and Puyo Macas.
These actions, which interrupt the democratic environment, will not break the strong unity of the indigenous Peoples of Pastaza and of the rest of the country. We will go on until we can talk to the President of the Republic, concluded Antonio Vargas Guatatuca.
Quito, April 8th, 1992 Leonardo Viteri Coord. OPIP Quito Puyo,
"Now that we reaffirm ourselves as Peoples, we also reaffirm the spiritual and material connections which unite us to the Pachamama", (territory), express the indigenous people at the moment they initiate the march of more than 500 kms from the bordering and distant communities which are part of the Quichua, Shiwiar, and Achuar nations of Pastaza.
Walking through the paths of our ancestors, where according to the indigenous traditions, is found the fountain of vital cosmic energy and other forces such as the rain, clouds, winds, and lightening, which nurture life of their divinities, the most distant communities, Shiona, Chuindia, Curaray, Boberas, Curintza, Playas of Montalvo, among others, join for the first massive concentration of people in Puyo, on April 11th, 1992.
We have come to talk in the name of the lives of the forest, to re-state our rights to the territory in which we have always lived, stated Antonio Vargas, President of the OPIP, when he spoke of the peaceful march which will conclude in Quito at the Presidential House of the Republic.
Vargas expressed his gratitude to all the Quichua, Shiwiar and Achuar territories, in the Province of Pastaza. Even though, our organization the OPIP has presented concrete alternative proposals, the government has refused to give concrete answers.
With all of this, the OPIP, in the last encounter of the dialogue between government and CONAIE, last March 31st, ratified its response to the territorial legalization and is waiting for a response, concluded Antonio Vargas Guataca.
Sincerely, Tito Merino Communications Director OPIP
The Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza(OPIP), denounce to the country:
Assuming a racist and irresponsible attitude, government authorities and military of the Province of Pastaza are creating an environment of incertitude and fear in the civil society of this province.
Totally distorting the objectives of the peaceful march which the Quichua, Shiwiar and Achuar nations will begin April 11 towards the capital. The aim of our march is to claim our legitimate territorial rights.
This march is known at the national and international level. Such authorities have initiated a series of alarmant actions with the clear objective of boycotting the march. This could result in racist confrontations which could bring damaging consequences. The false accusations directed towards the communities under the umbrella the OPIP include: supposedly taking the city of Puyo, and among the activities robbing banks viandalism to private poverty, looting of domestic animals and entering ranches.
It is with these arguments, that the police and the armed forces are militarizing the city of Puyo and the roads of access to this city from the indigenous communities. Blocking and impeding the arrival of indigenous members to the city of Puyo for this historical march. Infiltrating military intelligence agents in the indigenous communities to cause disunion among our families. In addition the Government of Pastaza is promoting a provocative action called "contra-march" to take place April 11, in the city of Puyo. With this purpose in mind, indigenous peoples and landowners associated to FEDECAP are being manipulated. This attitude from the authorities of the province of Pastaza is contrary to the logic which must guide to those who are in charge of looking out for the social welfareof the communities.
In order to avoid these irresponsible actions, OPIP is calling for urgent action directed towards the Government of Pastaza, to demand the following:
1. That the military control established which is obstructing exit of the indigenous peoples in Puyo Macas as well in Puyo Tena be terminated.
2. That the alarmist campaign exposed in the city of Puyo be suspended, because the march is a peaceful march of indigenous peoples who will go on foot to Quito, in order to dialogue with the President of the country as it corresponds in a democratic regime.
3. The "contra-march" which is to be organized with FEDECAP is exclusive responsibility of the National government. We want to re-state the peaceful spirit of the march towards Quito, whose objective is:
-to dialogue with the President of the Republic, in order to demand the legalization of our territories and present before the Ecuadorian Congress the reforms to the Constitution.
Any attempt to distort our objectives provoke unnecessary tensions in the interior of the country. Puyo, 8th April 1992
Letters of support for the marchers, and for peaceful resolution of their demands are needed. See topic 354 , or if the numbers change, topic entitled "2,000 Indians march..." for the addresses. Or you may contact WORLDLINK to send telexes to the President of Ecuador: WORLDLINK 1-800-827-2830
International attention is crucial to the success of the march.
Supproting 500 Years of Resistance means not just planning for one time events or educational forums, but providing real support for the lives and crises of the people and their lands.
(Posted in Native-l on April 14, 1992 by SAIIC, firstname.lastname@example.org.)