June 16, 1997
In recent days, the Huaorani people's organization ONHAE has experienced a series of difficult and extremely disturbing events which require the Huaorani's international allies to respond with support.
Earlier this month, the Ecuadorian military raided the ONHAE office in the town of Shell, confiscating the organization's radios the Huaorani leaders depend on to communicate with the communities. Accounts from one source in Shell say that the military took action in order to keep the Huaorani from "talking to the Peruvians." Several days later, the ONHAE president (Juan) was involved in a fight with a few soldiers, possibly in a bar room brawl scenario. Apprarently, one of the soldiers has died and as a result, and in the last few days Juan has been put jail, accused of murder.
While the details of this situation are still not clear, there is real concern in Ecuador that the Huaorani leader is been beaten and tortured. In addition, the outlook for fair legal proceedings is dim.
Please take a moment to write the President of Ecuador, asking him to initiate an independent investigation into the case and the possiblity of military harassment of indigenous organizations. Please send a copy of your letter the U.S. Embassy in Quito, attention Alfredo Anzaldua (fax 011-593-2-502-025 or e-mail ALFRED.ANZALDUA@DOS.US-STATE.GOV).
Sample letter follows (if you can send it in Spanish, even better):
Honorable Fabian Alarco
President of the Republic
Calle Garcia Moreno
Dear President Alarcon:
I am writing to respectfully urge you to immediately initiate an investigation into the recent events in Shell, Pastaza concerning the military seizure of ONHAE (Organización de Nacionalidades Huaoranis de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) property and the encarceration of ONHAE's president under the charge of murder.
The news of these events in Pastaza is cause for concern, particularly in light of military involvement and the difficulties indigenous leaders have traditionally faced in legal proceedings. Government initiative on this case is clearly necessary in order to address this delicate situation.
Thank you for your concern.
Update from June 26 alert printed above
Ecuadorian police have released the president of the Huaorani representative organization, ONHAE, after holding him in jail in the city of Puyo for several days, apparently under the charges of murder. The Huaorani leader now awaiting trail, which will likely take place within three months.
There is still significant concern about the leader and ONHAE's situation after the military's seizure of the organization's radios several weeks ago.
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