Category archive

Human Rights

A Hidden Tragedy Translated: The Censored Book That Broke Ecuador’s Heart

in Corruption & Transparency/Environmental Activism/Human Rights by
Ecuador Censored Book
yasuni amazon
The obscured text on the back cover symbolizes the attempts at hiding this tragedy even before the book was censored.
“At the end of march this year, 2013, in the jungles of Ecuador’s northern orient, a great massacre of uncontacted indigenous was committed.” opens the book A Hidden Tragedy. “Accomplished in a way that was abusive and cruel. Those eliminated, above all, where women and children.”

Seventeen minutes before the book was due to be presented to the Ecuadorian public it was censored from circulation “over any medium” by none other than Judge Hilda Garces of the Judicial Unit of Violence Against Women and Family.

 
The reason: the book contained uncensored photos of two Taromenane girls aged 3 and 6 who had been kidnapped during the massacre of their uncontacted tribe.

Seemingly unbeknownst to the Judge or anyone else who had not yet read the book is that the authors took great care to protect the identities of “C-” and “D-“, as we follow their terrifying journey from the moment their mother is speared to their arrival in the remote Yarentaro outpost inside the oil giant RepSol’s Petroleum Block 16.

The book contained something much worse: a catalog of government incompetence and carelessness in the Ecuadorian Amazon at a time when it was facing a massive public backlash on its decision to drill for billions of dollars of oil in the Yasuní National Park – home of the uncontacted Taromeane tribe now facing the existential threat of genocide.

One thing above all becomes clear: the massacre was preventable.

Knowing this fact makes the reader feel the tragedy all the more deeply as the authors, a Spanish anthropologist missionary and veteran Ecuadorian journalist, scramble to alert the authorities to stop sitting on their hands and do something to prevent a repeat of the 2003 massacre in which between 13 – 26 innocent men, women, and children of the Taromenane were killed.

The book also opens up as many questions as it answers: why did the Governor of Orellana Province celebrate the massacre? Who is airdropping poisoned food onto an uncontacted tribe that happen to live above one of the largest untapped oil reserves on the South American continent?

In Part I of this story we walked through events leading up to the assassination of Ompore Omewey, the flashpoint that triggered the massacre, using photos and information passed to me by a contact inside Block 16 while referencing the first 60 pages of A Hidden Tragedy.

For Part II I have devoted my limited time and resources to translate excerpts from the moment the authors of A Hidden Tragedy uncover why the Waorani elders were assassinated, to give an incomplete, yet very relevant and revealing view, into the massive human and environmental costs associated with the crude profit of petroleum exploitation in Ecuador’s Amazon.

English excerpts from A Hidden Tragedy

NOW AVAILABLE: Censored Book by Miguel Cabodevilla, CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
NOW AVAILABLE: Censored Book by Miguel Cabodevilla
NOTE:The headings, highlights and [comments] are mine to help give context and make the excerpts easier to scan.

The first half of the book is written by Cabodevilla from an anthropological perspective and the second half by Aguirre examines what seems like a government coverup of the massacre. The excerpts are ordered primarily by page number but I have placed parts of Aguierre’s investigation towards the beginning chronologically. All the photos below are in the book.

The version used to translate was una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida.pdf (a hidden tragedy corrected) which you can download here on Chekhov’s Kalashnikov as well as from the blogs, torrents, twitter, dropbox and facebook pages Ecuadorians used to subvert the censorship. 

“I’m not meeting their demands they are going to kill me”


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 59 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Two Taromenani veterans had approached [Ompore] various times, with some confidence, asking for axes, machetes, and pots.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 59 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

In fact in a Waorani reunion in March 2012, when they filmed this video [of Ompure recounting First Contact with the Taromenane] Ompure told the Waorani assembly about these encounters at his house. He had obtained a few tools from a Waorani employee of Repsol; also Cawetipe, President of NAWE [Waorani Nationality of Ecuador] but it seems this meagre distribution reached only a few [Taromenane] and provoked animosity in others; some of them came to Ompore in a threatening way, demanding tools for everyone.

Ompore, in turn requested, somewhat distressed (i’m not meeting their demands they are going to kill me) the tools from the assembly and the petrol company RepSol. [they denied the request]  
 
He was terrified. On several occasions [the Taromenane] had robbed his house in the jungle. Following various claims these complaints and intimidations became more often. Not only for tools, but they also complained (as we have seen) about everything that disrespected their territory, for the loud noise of the petrol rigs of the north, for the highways that cut their ancient paths and impeded their passing.

The Waorani elder Ompure Omewey impaled with Taromenane spears
The Waorani elder Ompure Omewey impaled with Taromenane spears

Airdrops of food cause suspected “massive poisoning” of uncontacted Taromenane

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 62 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

On the 12th of April, the Agency of Official News, ANDES, published a surprising declaration from the Attorney General of the nation. Given the hermetic way in which it had managed itself until then (also before and after this declaration) in light of the subject, emphasizing the complexity of the investigation and therefore the steps which were to occur, their words came as a surprise. “The Attorney General is verifying a testimony given by the [kidnapped Taromenane girls] that an aircraft flew over dropping poisoned food that was eaten by various indigenous Taromenane, producing death in some of them. The Attorney General Chiriboga has left open the possibility that, if the murder is proven and those responsible identified, they will be tried in civil courts.”

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 63 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

The planes doing flights over the zone, normally leave the airports of Shell and Coca, shouldn’t be that numerous in recent months (or years) to not be able to check them. That which is obvious is to say that the Attorney General signaled, first and foremost, that the Ministry of Justice, charged with ensuring strict compliance with the PMC [Plan of Precautionary Measures] are therefore responsible for all actions that pose a threat to the safety of uncontacted tribes.

However, from the policy portfolio until today there has been no clarification issued on this grave suspicion that came all the way from the Attorney General. The Ministry of Justice is well aware that controls on flights in that area is just as important as on terrestrial entrances. [to the Intangible Zone – territory of the uncontacted Taromenane]

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 64 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

In our recent interviews with multiple Waorani witnesses of the area that complain and remember helicopter flights, also light planes, over the area. Several of them are members of the expedition organized by Waorani to revenge the death of the elders [Ompure and Buganey]. Their words, and even some of the photographs taken, testify to a large number of canned tuna found in the Taromenane homes. Other strange products found there could perhaps be explained by theft: clothes, liniment, cables for petroleum explosions…
Waorani holds up a t-shirt found in the Taromenane house
Waorani from revenge expedition holds up a t-shirt found in the Taromenane house
¿Could the Taromenane have accidentally opened some out of date tuna can, eaten it, and become victims of food poisoning for example? Are there other ways or risks for this alleged poisoning that has been denounced by the Attorney General? We are waiting for an explanation of the flights, also the possibility of homicide perpetrated from the air. This is something extremely serious.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 65 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Certainly that first interview with the kidnapped girl, made at the beginning of her confinement, surely could not accurately determine the circumstances of these events: date, circumstances of death … In any case it reminds us of another narration we collected from the mouth of Ompure referring to the annihilation of an uncontacted group perhaps prompted by an illness or massive poisoning.

Government compensation for murder: food rations


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 68 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

What had happened in Yarentaro in legal and political terms was this: people protected by the [Ecuadorian] Constitution (with the government in charge of enforcing it), such as the Taromenani, assassinated two Waorani citizens who must also be protected by the State.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 69 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Meanwhile an endless treadmill of consultations and meetings began from many different government sectors. An unfortunate feature of this way of doing politics. They argued, as is customary, to whomever was playing the lead in resolving the problem. There were meetings with at least two dozen different secretaries and managers. They collided with each other, got into endless speeches or opinions, and whoevers opinion eventually prevailed was less than what was needed, while the police made the case a secret and controlled every aspect of it.

They consulted each other and who knows how many supposed experts in the following days, because after so many years with the problem [10 years since the massacre of 2003] the government team had no one to guide these matters wisely. They lost precious time to react and when they did they incorrectly calculated the internal social composition of the Waorani.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 70 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

During those days we cautioned them with incessant communications to different [government] officials: You have to try and talk with those that are preparing the revenge attack! The only way, probably, is that the Government, above all, recognises its error: we have failed in our protection.

Then accept a duty incumbent upon [the government] to recognize its responsibility to help (compensation is a word that officials run away from like cats to water) the family. We encourage them to enter the affected communities with a generous and fair offer, not some insufficient food rations. [“the compensation of beans did not calm the tensions” – page 152 Milagros Aguirre]

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 71 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Officials or advisers during the situation accepted as routine the expenses of incessant helicopter or plane travel, diets and hotels, etc., but were utterly incapable, and scandalized the Waorani whose family had been speared (we insisted: these people were expressly protected by the government) They can claim compensation. They had every right to it!

Waorani warriors acquire modern weaponry


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 72 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Waorani of the effected clans left for Coca and other points and made contacts for the adquisition of arms and ammunition. Repeated requests to the authorities to effectively control arms and munitions did not work. Several of the attackers had obtained sophisticated weaponry, 12 shot rifles among others. The final expedition that left the population was organized on the 24th of March. [Since the assassination] 19 days had passed! The luck of the Taromenane had been cast. The Government, with all of its means, had not been capable of resolving, in such a long time, a complex case, but one which involved less than a dozen well known Waorani.
Waorani enter the jungle to track the attackers after Ompure and Buganeys burrial
ecuador massacre
Waorani Warriors pose for photo on the 30th of March, 8:30am, inside a Taromanene hut
una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 79 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

To live on such a violent border [the Taromenane “Intangible Zone”] (like some groups situated on the Vía Auca), where there are arbitrary land grabs, forest exploitation, etc., as well as the unlawful acts of many of their neighbours (colonizers and inidgenous) that do not respect this border (above all in hunting and fishing) is not the best school for the Taromenane to appreciate the laws of the Cowori [Taromenane word for outsider]. It is a place with very little law, with very bad laws, we can say.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 150 – Milagros Aguirre

On that same day we sent 9 emails to the Viceminister of the Interior and an advisory lawyer of the Ministry, insisting on compensating the victims [Ompures family], as the only possibility to calm the tension, to uphold justice and start the rule of law in this no mans land. Including to make work a proposal to regulate compensation claims in cases like this: “if uncontacted groups are protected by the State and cause damage to their neighbours, the State has to take responsibility for this damage”. A regulation should have already been the first step to set a precedent. [and prevent the massacre of 2003 from happening again]

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida-2-1
– Highlight on Page 152 – Milagros Aguirre

Why didn’t they act? Why didn’t they prohibit weapons, create a strong control, an agreement that could prevent those affected from seeking justice with their own hands? The argument, according to an official from this very government, is that some expert voices on the Waorani blindly told them that the Waorani were incapable of going to seek their Tagaeri/Taromenani brothers, that it was crazy to think that. They were mistaken. Its easy to make such a mistake on this topic, above all, if prejudice and anthropological assumptions are handled unrealistically and entirely wrong. Moreover, not far from all human feelings, common to all cultures and all people: anger, fear, the need for revenge, the thirst for justice.

On the 15th of March we wrote back to the Viceminister in private. We sent him a document titled “Some reflections”. One more time, we insisted that if he is not in the community, if he does not compensate the victims, if he does not go to Dicaro-Yarentaro to calm the animosity of the people, something is going to happen. A new disgrace in the jungle was imminent. And we would see it happen, before our eyes, the dead, once again.

To inform the public we wrote an article in Vanguardia which was published Monday 18th of March. Since then we have expressed to some organizations –the ONWO [Organization of the Waorani Nationality of Orellana province], the Confeniae [Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in the Ecuadorian Amazon], the Conaie [the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador], the CDES [Observatory of Collective Rights], the Network of Anthropologists, the applicants of precautionary measures [Plan de Medidas Cautelares] letters in Avaaz.org and Change.org – everybody – worried about what happened and what could happen, even though we explained the unique conflict exclusively from the easiest side: Ompure and Buganey were murdered because of the loud noises from an energy generator, and that Buganey, in the final moments on her deathbed, gave an Anti-Oil Company speech, which suited a series of rumours, depending on the organization speaking or the expert on shift.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 154 – Milagros Aguirre

On the 23rd of March we got the first news that an armed expedition had left to look for those who had killed Ompure and Buganey. Nothing to do. Utter helplessness. Despair. Distrust in the promises of the authorities. Overall, it had been almost 20 days since the assassination of the elders and the authorities still didn’t know what to do, they didn’t speak, and if they did, they said it was a structural problem and should be fixed structurally.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 156 – Milagros Aguirre

On the 28th we sent the Viceminister another text, “the new jungle of uncontacted peoples”, aiming to contribute knowledge to the circumstances he found himself living. The weekend continued with uncertainty: the expedition had not returned, they were still deep in the jungle. We found out about them on Monday the first of April. The revenge had been consummated. Justice, made there way. Death had arrived.

Paradoxically on that same day, the 1st of April, our response from Brigadier General Edison Narváez, Commander of the IV Division of the Amazon, also arrived: there has been no discovery of people dedicated to the sale of arms and munitions in the zone, was his reply.

A few hours before the news, we were again contacted by officials of the Interior Ministry. They called to invite us to participate in a workshop prepared on the issue by a different office, one with understanding of the topic and consultants, another with local authorities (again its always the same and ends the same). Hours later we returned their call, but not to confirm our presence on this so called workshop, but to tell the Viceminister that it was all too late, that there was no point in yet another workshop, whether or not the State could manage a structural response: the revenge had been consummated. The Waorani returned with two girls, C- and D-, that they had captured on their expedition.

“What! Are we talking about a scenario like 2003?” said the surprised Viceminister.

march of peace in coca
“March for Peace and Justice” on April 11th in Coca. Banners include: “we are all brothers”, “yes to peace” and “barrels of oil do not justify the death of anybody”
said with Ompure
Waorani community leaders Penti and Tepa in the March for Peace in front of the Police station of Coca. In the video of Ompure “The Taromenane told me…” Penti says that one day the Waorani and Taromenane “Will have peaceful contact and we can be as one,” and together the two tribes “will defend the territory” from petrol companies.

Snapshots from a deadly revenge expedition


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 85 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

A photographic report was made during the expedition [to avenge Ompure]. It is a series of 74 photos taken between the 24th of March and the 2nd of April by one of the explorers. 18 photographs are missing from the series.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 86 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

The snapshots, taken on a digital camera, determine the day, hour and minute of when they were taken. They are, therefore, a primary document to the hour of the confrontation when compared with the following testimonies. If we don’t publish them here intact its obviously to conceal the identities of the protagonists. Revealing them is not our intention. We know at the time of obtaining them that these documents were in the hands of the Ministry of Justice, and therefore the use of them was transferred to the police as well as all legal and political responsibility.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 89 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

The photographic guide resumed on the 30th, at 8:30 in the morning. The expedition had discovered an old Taromenane house that was empty. The expedition believes the attackers [of Ompure and Buganey] stayed here on their return. There are monkey skulls with termites, evidently consumed raw. The importance of the discovery for those is shown in the immediate activity of the reporter: 12 photographs in the following 7 minutes. Its the first Taromenane refuge they find.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 90 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

The expedition finds a winding path, with lots of ups and downs, which they anxiously walk. The group knows they are at a key point. On 15´21 they encounter a bridge again, this time with much more Huangana skulls [wild Amazonian pigs] hanging from the walkway, which opens up into a space around a big house that’s also abandoned. They see bones impaled on a stick lying on the ground at the extreme end of the patio: a large series of skulls bleaching in the sun. The expedition talks of finding bones inside the house as well. A sign to warn off uninvited visitors, or trophies in a house of great hunters?

A Waorani warriors testimony of the massacre

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 93 – Unidentified Wao who participated in the massacre

“The Taromenane were singing, a song different to what we sing. It was a strong song, strong. They sung like the monkeys sing. That’s how they sang (he sings trying to imitate them but the lyrics aren’t easy to understand) The song seems like its calling the jungle. Ayyyyy, hear the jungle. Like the call of the animals. They sung strong, strong.

When we arrived at the house we heard a man who was strong. He sung that if he was a jaguar he would become strong: “I don’t respect nobody, I turn into a jaguar.” That’s how they attacked Ompure and Buganey. I killed them. Then the sound of lightning and thunder. The Taromenani said: “when I went armed with my spear everyone ran scared! That’s why I’m here armed. If a jaguar was tied up, when its set free, no one stays around!”

This man sung when we were still far. When I went with Manuel (in the entrance narrated by M. Cawiya) the Taromenani sung there as well. On another occasion, one brother of mine got scared and fainted to hear the song of the Taromenani. They sang like that now. Also my grandmother N. knows a story about an elder Taromenani who sung very strong. At the end of the song they screamed: “Tucuuuu…We come to kill, we are going to eat like the tiger.”

We quickly went on the path. Others sung, watching the path. They were inside the house, spying the path. Inside they were singing but they had two guards. They were looking above, but they did not see us. Someone will come out, we thought, and that’s how we will shoot them. Some said: “I am going to kill them first.” I thought to go on the left hand side. They sung like Bai de Bataburo, that’s what their voice was like. He he he! They were laughing. All of these people singing, all of them destined to die. That’s why I believe they were dedicated to singing, it was their last song.

When it rains hard, they will say do not kill, they will talk strong, the Taromenani, so that we don’t come and kill. Their elder said: “we are keeping watch because enemies are coming.” But the young ones laugh. The elder was warning them, but the young ones didn’t realise. “You are going to die,” repeated the elder, “in the claws of a tiger.”

I. said: “I believe the women are making chica of chonta, that’s why they are singing” We listened in ambush around the house; we kept surrounding it. So that we can kill them as they leave the house! we thought. First you kill, one said, and later we enter. We waited for whoever wanted to initiate. Their young ones were laughing. Two of them came out with spears. When they came out of the door E. was already getting close to the same door of the house to kill them. I believe they came out because the boy wanted to make a relation with the girl.

The girl was right there and realised that we were also coming close. One of them entered the house, the girl stayed outside of the house. A. said “they are all about to come out!” E. went first and afterwards I followed. Around the house it was clean. When we entered on another path, you could hear the spears of the Taromenane inside the house. When they came out we killed them all, we killed them as they came out. We shot the rifles, but it didn’t sound loud. At first they didn’t hear. Two times we shot and they didn’t hear.

Afterwards, with the sound of another bullet, an elder said, “the Cowori have come! run, run, run! Guri, guri, guri.” There was a shootout, the bullets flew and they fell. Blood came out, lots of blood, blood dripping like water. Many people running. A big man managed to run away and hide. “Guri Guri, Guri, run, run, run!” the big man was saying. Run from those that are killing you, run or they will kill you. There were lots of them. One of them we shot in the eye. We killed them like fat Huanganas, fat, that’s how we killed them, equal to the Huanganas. Those that were skinny we left. Blood flowed like a stream of water. We killed each one with a gunshot, we shot them without stopping.

I believe the hand flew with the bullet. I shot a bullet in the stomach of one, but i’m not sure if he lived or died. I’ve only got 4 bullets and I’m out of bullets! We shot them all. There were ten bullets left! You could see well below the trees and shoot. “Look below!” said one. Two Taromenani couples ran. One man came with spears and wanted to kill K., but he couldn’t spear him. You already know how the bullet is: faster. We shot them with bullets and the man who had the spear fell. Another Taromenani was crying, saying we should not have killed them. “We were living well!” complained this man. He was crying when they killed him. “We shouldn’t have killed the family of Ompure because now many have come to kill us,” is how the Taromenani cried.

K. was saying: “Why did you come and kill my father?” Just like what they did to Ompure, we speared them. We nailed them with spears. The same. Now some of us laughed as we killed; several of us laughing as we killed them. V. kept stepping this Taromenani against the ground, then speared him from below so the point came out through the mouth, like they did to Ompure. We felt dizzy. After all the people we killed, we felt dizzy. I believe one of them we cut off the head, we stuck a few heads to a stick is how we got rid of two men.

Afterwards we collected the fallen bullets and hid in the jungle. When we were finished killing, everyone entered the house and we found that they had cooked monkey, paujil, and we ate that food. They didn’t eat tuna. But they had it saved, they had lots. They had Axes, all of them given to them from Ompure. I tipped out the moretal, so that those who lived could not take it. I stopped hurling axes. The chica smelt like the smell of a chiefs nest, thats how Taromenani chica smells. That chica of the Taromenani we came back drinking. We also collected the spears and dart pipes to bring them home. When we were carrying them a Taromenani got up, as if it was alive. It scared us, we left it there and ran away,

When we stopped running, we slept. Afterwards we got up at dawn. The girl who came was soaked wet, she was cold. She cried a lot when she arrived the first time. She cried a lot that girl. She was swollen with crying. We climbed the mountain, the hills, the plains, we climbed up and down, walked and came out on the River Tivacuno. I didn’t think of bringing things. Another time I thought of going back and collecting them. B. wanted to leave them on the hills. Of the monkeys, two monkeys, we came walking. K. stayed asleep. All of us stayed asleep.

The law of the jungle

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on age 97 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Life, tradition, mark this. To die or to live, which is another way to say: you have to kill to live. Its the law of the jungle. Two faces on the same coin that fall towards one side or the other, its a question of change, strength, courage, cunning, and determination.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 98 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

The two following images, at 16´06, show a similar scene on the same minute: a young Taromenane, face down in the jungle, shot in the back and pierced by a spear. Together with her, thrown onto his back on the ground, is a child of 2 or 3 years, seemingly impaled by a spear.
taromenane-baby-speared

War trophies: two taromenani girls are kidnapped


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 106 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

According to an eyewitness, when they had finished off the wounded and various Waorani dedicated themselves to looking through the property inside the Taromenane house to obtain their booty, a young woman suddenly appeared close who carried with her two girls: C-, already presented here, and D-, her little sister of three years. The three had been outside the house before the assault, maybe in the creek closeby or in some other occupation.

Upset by the shootout, surely seeing the massacre of her family, the woman came to offer herself, or she was discovered, when the climax of the furor had already passed exhausting all the bullets. The narrator insists that, from the beginning she appeared absolutely submissive and pleaded with them to respect the life of the three, offering herself to be the woman of whoever would take them.

In one testimony, the three were surrounded by some of them, while the rest continued their search [for loot and survivors] As she understood them quite well, she was interrogated about the closeness of her other family. She told them that the other [Taromenane] group had been split off and estranged after their assault on the elders [Ompure and Buganey] (who we are certain were identified as Cowori). The other house was a good days walk away. According to her those members were the most aggressive and violent [of the Taromenani]. She listed the names of the fallen members of her family and her neighbours.

Those that listened were in a rush, there was only two hours of sunlight left; less in the jungle. They had to put land in between them in case of a Taromenani counterattack by survivors. Some said to end with the three of them and start the escape. One Waorani laid claim to the two girls, the abduction of girls, both with other groups of Waorani attackers as well as Cowori, is quite a common tradition. Some of them did not accept it, and insisted all of them must die, and it produced a moment of great tension.

The testimony insinuates that there could have been shots fired between Waorani had their weapons not been discharged. Seeing this, the woman offered herself to the veteran, and he was tempted to take her with him. The rest did not permit it and said they should not be in charge of her, she was too old to hold while fleeing. So one of them killed her right there, in front of the eyes of her daughters.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 112 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Then for almost 20 minutes, perhaps in a high moment on the trip, the improvising reporter, offers us the three last snapshots of the expedition; three beautiful portraits of the two captive girls. They have an impressive paleness, surely the cause of being soaked wet, hungry and cold in the canoe voyage, and for certain the terror and newness of everything they were seeing.
taromenane-girl-kidnapped
taromenane-girl

Police avoid photographic evidence of “unconfirmed” massacre

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 104 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

This man was on the streets of Coca with his camera and photos, leisurely giving declarations to the press, offering this barbaric merchandise to the highest bidder. What did the Prosecutors Office do? They didn’t seize or examine the camera (that showed so many things) or the photos. They also decided not to enter [the site of the massacre] and also prohibited the entrance to that theater of events. They did a lot of aerial flights, that yes, something which is harmful for the survivors, we want them to explain to us one day why.
One of the many overflights of the authorities during the first days of April.
One of the many overflights of the authorities during the first days of April. Uncontacted tribes are terrified by low-flying planes and helicopters
una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 116 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

We can say that, a few days after [the massacre] the photographs of the terrestrial expedition were being sold in Coca to the highest bidder. It seems like the Attorney General and the Judicial Police, with all of their abundant contacts, did not arrive there. Comparing the photos from the ground with those from the air would have left no doubt about the massacre. The police argued that the unknown dangers were too great to go there [into the Intangible Zone to examine the scene of the crime]
taromenane-house-phototaromenane-house-massacred
una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 118 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

Outside of sporadic visits of scarce bureaucrats from the Attorney and Justice offices, the presence of the State has shone brighter than ever by its absence. We have seen distinct [government] officials hesitant in their behavior, contradicting each other, making unjustifiable promises. Despite what was often expressed by the Attorney General, the fact is that a climate of impunity has been established in the communities as if they had gained definitive ground from the State.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 123 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

This is a very sad story. Not only because of the amount of innocent victims, more than that because it reflects beyond the errors of government injustice, an incomprehensible and generalized human and cultural insensitivity inside Ecuador. Also in international news networks which barely reported on this. As we said, it is more terrible when you consider that killing was not an exception. It was not a surprise, it was preventable.

“The terrible scourge of genocide”


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 124 – Miguel Angel Cabodevilla

In this, as in the terrible scourge of genocide of the people in that uninhabited jungle, the Government should have the responsibility it wants given. But, of course, it is not their exclusive fault. Neither of these misguided officials invented the disaster that has come to mean the annihilation of uncontacted groups. To say this is to deceive, to not see the obvious.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 158 – Milagros Aguirre

First of April: two girls captured. Taken by force from the heart of the jungle after a horrific massacre of their family members. Two girls who can die from the common cold. Two innocent girls, terrified. One with the son of Ompure, the other with another. Girls who are the legacy of vengeance. Girls who are witnesses. Girls who are trophies of war, of a war without sense, of deaths that could have been prevented, or at least attempted. If the deaths of Los Reyes could not have been prevented, or the Ompure’s death either, for being truly unpredictable, this attack seemed predictable and obvious because of the 20 days that elapsed.

President Correa’s first public statement


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 159 – Milagros Aguirre

On April 6th President Correa made his first statement about the topic on his Saturday TV appearance. “They talk of 18 dead, but until now they haven’t found a single cadaver.” He continued: “unfortunately there have been grave problems between the Contacted and Uncontacted tribes. Various aerial expeditions have been sent, terrestrial, but we don’t know. This is an extremely difficult and complex case because of its nature.” Correa denied the conflict was related to the activity of petrol companies in the zone. “Nothing to do with the petrol companies, its a problem between clans.”

Municipal governor celebrates the massacre?


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 160 – Milagros Aguirre

The vigilantes were happy and proud of their achievement. They show the huge thick spears stolen from one of the Tagaeri / Taromenani houses after the assault. Each one of them has one. They surround the Governor and have their photos taken with her. The photo appears on the Facebook of the Governors Office of Orellana Province, (all officials enjoy the way that social networks, Facebook and Twitter, let them communicate with their constituents) with an alusive text about the visit which says that the Waorani of Yarentaro sent, like a souvenir, a Taromenani spear to the President of the Republic… And that they are now in peace. That calm has returned to the Waorani communities. That Yarentaro and the Government have reached an agreement.
governor-ecuador-taromenane
una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 160 – Milagros Aguirre

Does this perhaps show a hidden agenda? A machevelian plan of premeditated extermination? Or was it simply the slip of a government official who had no idea what to do in such a complicated situation?

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 161 – Milagros Aguirre

The Government, through its representatives, celebrating a victory? And recieving a war spear like a trophy as if it was part of national folklore? Ecuador loves life, as the government slogan says? This photo – and the narrative – were deleted immediately off the Internet to avoid misinterpretations.

“Convicting Ecuador of genocide by inaction or malpractice”


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 161 – Milagros Aguirre

The same day 9 [of April] both the Governor and the police in Coca gave a public statement to the media: “You cannot confirm the massacre, the massacre is just a rumour” Meanwhile, Cawetipe Yeti, president Nawe, armed the newspaper El Comercio – and also the television – that this was not a rumour, that this was true, and gave concrete statements.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 168 – Milagros Aguirre

On the 23 of April, David Romero appeared on telelvision in an exclusive interview, on the program Day to Day on TeleAmazonas. He confessed to having killed 5 people and doing it with spears. “I killed!” he said, “because i’m a warrior”. There also appeared on television a young man, son of one of the vigilantes. “My father killed, killed a lot of people” On the 30th, the Attorney General Chiriboga said on the television channels “There is no proof of this alleged massacre” and that “the investigation has not yet been able to establish the veracity of the information in the number of deaths” At the end of his declaration he assured “yes there was an attack” but did not say if there was or not any deaths.

For those of us in Coca, and in the countryside, informed of what had happened, all this was absurd. One day a boy confesses to the crime and another day, the authorities come out to conceal the facts. One day the leader of Nawe, Cawetipe Yeti, asserts that there had been many dead. The other day, the Attorney General of the nation comes out saying there is no proof. And days later, indicates that there were poisonings from food thrown out of the sky from who knows who and with what interests.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 170 – Milagros Aguirre

The result of this confrontation between officials and managers of two branches of government and lack of coordination between different institutions, the powers attributed to one or the other, were effective at only one thing: silence. The silence to shield the country against any international criticism referring to a possible sanction, a call to attention or convicting Ecuador of genocide by inaction or malpractice. Silence is better. The party of silence.

The fate of the two kidnapped girls


una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 180 – Milagros Aguirre

For some reason that escapes our understanding, the silence became a slogan and, in some cases, was accompanied by fear, in these almost six months from the 5th of March. Workers on the zoo-creidero project, located 200 metres from where Ompure and Buganey died, were witnesses to this fact. They did not or could not talk about the theme. An anthropologist gave an interview to the newspaper El Telégrafo and was summoned by the police because of his opinion (or because of the use of an official communication medium to give his statement). They told him to rectify his public statement that he made in the newspaper in question. He received threatening calls from people who had worked on some projects. And the panic spread.

A group of women tried to talk about the problem of the kidnapped girls, giving their point of view and putting on the table their legitimate worries that the elder girl pointed and confronted one of the men, accusing him of killing her mother. They knew that, for at least those first days, she cried saying her grandmother and uncle were coming to find her. They said that when she heard the rain coming, when the jungle announced oncoming thunder and lightning, “she hid like a rat”, still hostage of her fear.

Months had already passed and nobody had an idea what was going to happen to the two children that had been forced to live with their kidnappers, that now wore clothes, who refused to eat anything, who were being photographed, who were now living in houses of cement like the ones in the communities of Dikaro and Yarentaro, to learn about things like cars, televisions, cameras, and tablets.

We knew that the younger girl was living in Awemuro, near Kawimeno, with one of the sons of Ompure those first months. Later she was changed to a house in Dikaro of one of the other expeditionaries. For her, for D-, the younger one, it will surely be easier to forget and adapt to this new reality of her new parents. For the other it will cost her more….she will suffer with moderate rage, but will learn to get used to it…

The women signed a petition on Avaaz.org (that didn’t pass 100 signatures) so that the State takes responsibility for the girls, using the pseudonym to avoid retaliations. They presented several scenarios to the authorities, from the possibility of returning the girls to their clan, to the temporary custody of other Waorani families [who were not involved in the massacre]. They neither obtained a response to their request or opened a debate on the topic: its better not to speak, of certain things, to paraphrase the title of a recent Ecuadorian film.

una-tragedia-ocultada-corregida
– Highlight on Page 181 – Milagros Aguirre

The girls had the status of protected witnesses of the Attorney General, but were made to live with their kidnappers. Didn’t the rapporteur for the United Nations, Mr. Anaya, say that the state must guarantee the physical and psychological safety of the girls? Who is the authority, entity, or instituion that has this competence? We asked the group of women in private because, in public, its better not to speak of certain things. Inside the politically correct, the result is it becomes best not to intervene or comment. Even though this accommodates unspeakable suffering, to live with those who ended your family, you can say it with a sort of irony that in the case of the Uncontacted Girls the only way to contact them is through the people that killed their parents.
taromenane-girl-assimilatedphotographed-taromenane-girl

The Welfare of Conta and her sister Daboka


I hope after reading these excerpts you have concluded, as I did after reading the book, that a full English translation is needed to warn the international community about what is happening in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The censorship of A Hidden Tragedy was shortlived but fortunately the hamfisted attempt at prohibition accomplished one thing: the blogosphere, social media, and every newspaper in Ecuador were discussing the fate of the two kidnapped Taromenane girls the government had abandoned in the hands of those that butchered their family.

It also stoked the Ecuadorian government to partake in a stupidly disproportional publicity stunt to rescue the girls depicted in the Newsweek article After all the people we killed we felt dizzy. Today we know the elder Taromenane girl, Conta, is under the care of Penti, the highly respected Waorani community leader. The whereabouts of her younger sister Daboka are believed to be with those who were responsible for the death of her family.

A Hidden Tragedy is not the only book to come out of this troubled region that has captured the worlds imagination and provided a window into the Amazon’s heart of darkness. While the theme and setting may remind some of the highly acclaimed 1989 novella The Old Man Who Read Love Stories about the increasing stupidity of modern man in the Ecuadorian Amazon, there will no doubt be comparisons by rosy-eyed missionaries to the 1961 cult-classic The Savage, My Kinsmen

There are however two other books that I believe A Hidden Tragedy resembles more deeply: the first is Eduardo Galeano’s 1971 international bestseller Open Veins of Latin America (which was also censored) in the way it furthers our understanding on how the western world’s thirst for resources is plundering the Amazon.

Then there is the renowned 1924 masterpiece of Latin American literature known as The Vortex – translated into English, French, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Polish and Japanese – which warned the world about the extermination of indigenous tribes enslaved on the Amazonian rubber plantations of Putumayo, less than a century before and little more than a hundred kilometers north, from where the extermination of the Taromenane tribe is currently taking place.
[mc4wp_form]

A Massacre, An Oil Multinational and Chief Ompore’s Last Smile

in Citizen Journalism/Food & Water Security/Human Rights by
ecuador oil
Chief Ompore smiles at a PowerPoint Presentation.
Chief Ompore smiles at the animals projected on a PowerPoint presentation (click to enlarge)

Chief Ompore couldn’t stop smiling as he watched photos of Amazonian animals get projected across the Town Hall wall of Yarentaro – a remote village in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park inside what oil companies call “Block 16.”

It was the 14th of December 2012 and the Spanish oil giant RepSol that administers the petroleum block had funded a project as part of its Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development Strategy “designed to alleviate pressure on the forest and to restore the ecosystem to its original state.”

RepSol’s project to offset the hundreds of millions of dollars of crude oil being pumped out of Block 16 was to build a “zoo-creidero” or animal hatchery. Since big oil moved in bushmeant had become increasingly scarce in the Waorani tribe’s formerly bountiful hunting grounds but once the zoo-creidero was completed those same wild animals getting projected against the wall could be bred for food in captivity.

On the 5th of March 2013, less than three months after these photos were taken, Ompore Omeway was murdered. His body and that of his wife Buganey were found impaled with spears inside RepSol’s Block 16 and the prime suspects were an uncontacted Amazonian tribe inside the Yasuní National Park called the Taromenane.

uncontacted tribe
“We were surprised to see Ompore at the door,” says a RepSol contractor, “he was timid at first but once he saw the animal photos he couldn’t stop smiling.”
Before the month of March ended an estimated 30 men, women and children of the Taromenane tribe were massacred in a battle that pitched wooden spears against modern weaponry.

Two Taromenane girls, aged 3 and 6, were kidnapped by those that killed their tribe while members of the Ecuadorian government spent seven months downplaying the massacre. Some even casted doubt on whether the Taromenane still exist.

This uncontacted tribe that is now fighting for survival against genocide live on lands that hold an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil.

Amazon Oil Highways & Illegal Meat Markets

RepSol Ecuador
RepSol is without a doubt the most responsible oil company in the history of Ecuador’s dirty oil industry.

The Spanish company has invested in education and schools in Yarentaro unlike their predecessors (Dallas based oil company Maxus) who were responsible for 29,355 hectares deforestation of primary rainforest and forbid Waorani from forming coalitions with indigenous groups outside of Block 16.

The last stop in western civilization before Block 16 is the illegal meat market of Pompeya where spider monkeys and tapirs, macaws and peccaries are sold wholesale for those with a taste for endangered flesh or trafficked onto the international black market.

Yarentaro is half an hour by boat or one and a half by car from Pompeya on the via Maxus – a formerly unpoliced “oil highway” built by Maxus – which gave commercial loggers and hunters access to the impenetrable depths of the Yasuni National Park where they stripped it like a plague of locusts.

Today getting to Yarentaro in Block 16 is illegal without a laminated photo ID issued by RepSol. The 40km speed limit to prevent noise pollution is strictly enforced with controls where guards pen down the time it took your vehicle to reach: the first speeding fine is $800, the second time its $3,000, the third you are banned from Block 16.

Chief Ompore looks at the whiteboard and (overexposed) projection
Chief Ompore looks at the whiteboard and (overexposed) projection

Younger generations of Waorani can enter and exit Block 16 freely without RepSol ID cards but carry Ecuadorian cedular’s just in case.

For Waorani like Ompore, who were born “Before Contact” and have never worn western clothes with their accompanying deep pockets, carrying identification is a little trickier.

But the guards, engineers, scientists, and contract workers in RepSol’s Block 16 all knew of Chief Ompore.

Ompore wasn’t just the Cacique of Yarentaro, he was the only person alive to have made peaceful contact with the mythical Taromenane and lived to tell the tale, as documented in this remarkable video:

A Hidden Tragedy: Ompore’s Last Moments Alive

As the Ecuadorian police seemingly stonewalled the investigation into the Taromenane massacre an unlikely team comprising of a Spanish anthropologist monk Miguel Ángel Cabodevilla and the veteran Ecuadorian journalist Milagros Aguirre began asking questions.

footprints
Footprint of the Taromenane. Investigators say they walk only on the tip of their feet.”(source: El Universo)
Why did the Taromenane attack almost a year to the day after the Chief claimed in the video above he had made peaceful contact with this uncontacted tribe?

They documented their findings in a book called A Hidden Tragedy which was prohibited from circulation in Ecuador “over any medium” at 5:43pm on September 24th, a full seventeen minutes before its presentation to the public.

The coverup backfired as the book’s digital PDF appeared on blogs, torrents, twitter, dropbox and facebook as Ecuadorians circumvented censorship and turned it viral – the ensuing scandal forced the book ban to be overturned.

In the book Cabodevilla and Aguirre piece together Ompore’s last day alive for clues: On the 5th of March he left his jungle hut with his wife Buganey before dawn wearing nothing but gumboots and a machete, carrying gifts of bushmeat for his family in Yarentaro.

Today the way younger generations of Waorani blasted their radios in Yarentaro annoyed the late Chief enough to build his home with Buganey away from the high-tech comforts of Contact three hours walk into the jungle. As he arrived on the village outskirts before 8am it was those same radios booming over the top of the drills, saws and hammers constructing the zoo-creidero that prevented the master hunter from hearing the ambush.

[quote]The aftermath was documented with the very technology that generations of Waorani born After Contact have embraced: cellphones.[/quote]
Buganey is in agony while being carried in a hammock to a doctor (source: http://polificcion.wordpress.com/)
Buganey is in agony while being carried in a hammock to a doctor (source: Polificcion)
“We have verified various videos and many photos of those first moments” writes Cabodevilla who transcribes the screams of Buganey:“Cut the spear! Cut the spear with a knife so I can live! Grab the spear, Hold it! I’m still alive but if you pull out the spear I will die…Give me water, put water on my head…hold the spear…”

She died an hour later.

The voice of one of her children screams: “I am going to kill them all! I am going to kill all of the Taromenani!”

A woman replies: “don’t talk like that!”

The body of Ompore was found near the river where he ran to escape the ambush. He’d been fatally wounded and fell into the leaflitter before propping himself up in a half-sitting position and died, impaled with nine spears more than three meters long and covered with colorful feathers. ompure-spears

There was no speed limit on the via Maxus the afternoon of Ompore’s murder as RepSol began withdrawing its personel from Block 16 in seeming anticipation of the tribal war to follow.

The next day the Bishop of Coca, Jesús Sábado, arrived in Yarentaro with two members of the FAL Foundation. One of the members filmed the Waorani community using a computer connected to the projector to show the Bishop and everyone else gathered a grainy cellphone video of Buganey, the Waorani elder born Before Contact, her dying breaths cast across the Town Hall wall for all to see.

[quote]In the video a woman’s voice shouts:“Ompure had already warned them, he already knew but you all did nothing. Two days ago the Taromenane left a sign; they bent a banana plant and put there a spear.”[/quote]

The question is: Why did the Taromenane attack Ompore Omewey? Read excerpts from A Hidden Tragedy translated into English to find out yourself. [mc4wp_form]

Oil & Genocide: Why We Must Protect the Human Rights of Uncontacted Tribes in Ecuador’s Yasuní

in Citizen Journalism/Environmental Activism/Human Rights by

As the Ecuadorian government begins drilling for oil in the Yasuni National Park – one of the most biodiverse regions on Planet Earth – human rights lawyer Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca discusses the existential threat of genocide facing the uncontacted tribes within this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

1. Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

Waorani in the initial stages of contact [photographer unknown]
Waorani in the initial stages of contact [photographer unknown]
Historically Ecuador and its governments have failed to clearly address the “problems of nationalities and peoples” who live in its geographical territory.

According to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) the country has 14 indigenous nationalities 9 of which live in the Amazon like the Waorani.

The issue of nationalities has experienced several legal, anthropological, and political debates about indigenous rights.

More recently oil exploitation in the Yasuni and the ITT region has reignited this debate about the fate of at least one nationality and two peoples – the Waorani Nationality of which the Taromenane and Tagaeri uncontacted tribes are apart.

Localización_del_Parque_YasuniA recent report by Ecuadorian anthropologists indicates that there are at least four isolated groups in the Yasuni National Park while other researches mention seven:“Katty Álvarez, a researcher in the lower basin of the Amazon, has identified groups making up families of uncontacted tribes. For example, exist Iwene group, known as ‘the people of coconuts’, in [petroleum] blocks 14 and 17″

Towards the border with Perú there is the Feromenani group, with its main anatomical feature being small earlobes, being very similar to the Tagaeris, confirmed the researcher. These groups live among the Napo and Tigres basin. Further south, however, there would be another group living in isolation called the Pananjuri of the Arabela linguistic branch.”

The one thing common to all uncontacted tribes and peoples living in voluntary isolation is that they are indigenous, and assuming their existence in this special situation, more attention should be given to any policy to do with their rights, their land, and the environment where they live.

1.1. Indigenous Peoples Living in Constrained or Voluntary Isolation:

To characterize the complexity of the question of uncontacted tribes an accurate description is necessary for its comprehension. The Guidelines of protection for indigenous peoples in isolation (OHCHR, 2012) state:[quote]”for these peoples, isolation is not a voluntary option but a survival strategy (para. 8)”

“While there is no consensus on the term to be used to refer to these people, in the international arena the most commonly used concept is “peoples in isolation.” In some countries they are known as, inter alia, free people, uncontacted, hidden, invisible, in voluntary isolation. Despite the different formulations, all refer to the same concept (para. 9)”[/quote]

Lets focus on: “for these peoples, isolation is not a voluntary option but a survival strategy”

The Tagaeri and Taromenane and other newly identified peoples would be within this category or concept so it is important to take into account legislation and how to implement it.

The United Nations has said that these peoples called names like hidden, isolated, and free are living in isolation for survival over desire: survival from diseases, food shortages from illegal hunting, timber harvesting, mining and quarrying, environmental contamination, which is common to indigenous peoples in Latin America and the world.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe survival of the Taromenane has been greatly threatened by events like the last oil spill SOTE of May 31, 2013, which according to official versions consisted of 10,000 barrels of oil that ended up in the Coca and Napo Rivers reaching Brazil and contaminating the water supply downstream that uncontacted tribes use to drink.

Other than fixing the pipeline no public or private institution has attempted to clean this spill.

 

2. The Human Rights of the Waorani, Tagaeri-Taromenane and other Uncontacted Tribes

In legal terms we would say that all human rights, international treaties, the Ecuadorian Constitution, as well as Inter-American Court rulings, fully apply to indigenous peoples and that we need to defend their rights whether they have made contact or still live in isolation.

Indigenous peoples however rarely share the same situation as the common folk of a country. We can talk about legal equality but overlook a history of discrimination, exploitation, genocide, poverty and violations of their ancestral rights which require special legislation to take into account these needs.

In the case of contacted tribes there exists the ILO Convention N.169 and several judgements from the Interamerican Court of Human rights but for uncontacted tribes there is no legislation, despite a greater need for their protection.

Currently there is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted at the 107th. plenary session on September 13, 2007, a project of the Organization of American States. They do not however expressly mention uncontacted tribes or isolated peoples except for nomadic peoples in which we can legally categorize isolated peoples even though its lacking.

Photo of uncontacted tribe in the Amazon.
Photo of uncontacted tribe in the Amazon.
Something to keep in mind is that indigenous peoples have their own rights which were forged over its history, customs, culture, being the social norm in their groups. Customary law can also be applied in cases of their territories.

The violence against their human rights has been a constant threat to these people over history (oil companies seeking to enter their territory, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, state controlled oil companies, NGOs, government and the list goes on) these practices have led to the extermination of native peoples.

In the case of uncontacted tribes, very few human rights violations have been made public such as the massacre of Taromenane on 29, 2013. The jungle however obscures many more events: disputes with loggers, big oil, the army, drug trafficking and narco-gangs as well as water pollution.

2.1. Stop Racism and Discrimination

Throughout history indigenous peoples have suffered discrimination from their colonizers, treating them as inferior and with less rights – evident today in Orellana province for the Waorani. With an industry like oil where land grabs are made by multinationals that utilize trickery and the bribing of indigenous leaders to divide and conquer the community.

Shaman Ecuador AmazonRacism adds to the discrimination of poverty in which recently contacted tribes face a lack of basic services like potable clean water, sewerage and sanitation systems as well as education and health.

Technology however is often accessible to these groups and it’s not strange to see younger generations with telephones in a community without clean drinking water.

The government policy on education remains standardized and does not respect the Waorani culture. Most schools in the Amazon employ incompetent teachers – except for a few schools funded by the oil company Repsol in Block 16. Other communities have a low educational level which glosses over the local culture, language, and teaching methods.

In the case of isolated peoples discrimination and racism is everywhere and is more noticeable when they are not even factored into oil exploration plans disrespecting their territory.

At times this has entered the level of farce when the deaths of members of these villages cannot be investigated because they do not have identity cards as the public prosecutor said in 2003. In another recent case prosecutors have denied the existence of these isolated peoples and even though there is evidence of crimes it has not convicted one illegal logger, oil worker or military man, for violating the Yasuní protected territory or providing modern weapons to the Waorani to kill the Taromenane.

Left behind is Article 66 paragraph 4, and 57 paragraph 2 of the Ecuadorian Constitution on formal equality, material and non-discrimination, the right pending to comply – the state must move from being a discriminatory state on the ground and ensure the equality mentioned in its constitution.

2.2. Self-Determination

On the right of self-determination there has existed various ideas, among them the right of the total independence of a people to form a new state, their own.

For the right of indigenous peoples we refer to the right to control their institutions, territories, resources, social justice, culture without interference or external domination and their right to establish their relationship with the dominant society and the state is on the basis of consensus.

This is to say not total independence of a state but the recognition and legal protection of their rights internationally given the vulnerability of many indigenous peoples.

In the case of uncontacted tribes different authors say that the ultimate expression of self-determination is the right to respect their decision to remain in isolation, as they know of the existence of other peoples or cowori (strangers) but the will of the State is kept at a distance. The right to remain isolated as Berraondo Mikel says [quote]”… is the ultimate expression of the right to self-determination that becomes the key that guarantees respect for traditional ways of life and social and political organization. While respecting their decision to remain isolated, uncontacted peoples retain their traditional systems of organization … and respect for their decision may be understood as recognition or legitimacy of their own systems of government and organization by external actors and governments of states whose territories are the territories of uncontacted peoples.”[/quote]

Waorani in the initial stages of contact with western civilization.
Waorani in the initial stages of contact with western civilization on the Shiripuno River.
With the peoples in initial contact such as the Waorani (pictured right) their right to self-determination, to exercise their own organization, has been hit hard by the oil industry.

This industry has violated traditional organizational forms, though in rare cases they consult the Pikenani (elders) when making decisions.

The state has been very negligent in caring for people in the initial stages of contact, leaving them to their fate, in which there has been a failure to act in cases where ethnocide has occured like what happened to the now extinct Tetete tribe and similar to what is currently happening with the Taromenane.

2.3. Territory and Environment

ecuador deforestation
Deforestation on the Napo River
Territory and environment are considered as one for Ecuador’s indigenous peoples, they correlate and all activities develop around them. The law is understood as for the collective and not the individual.

This right is considered a right for indigenous solidarity – to sustain the environment for future generations.

This right has always existed in the customary rights of tribes and their are many historical cases of their defense, although currently there are no maps, no paths, no landmarks to delineate the borders between Taromenane, Tagaeri or Waorani territory.

These people fight in defense of their ancestral lands, to maintain their privacy, preserve the land for their future generations. As was made clear in a remarkable video filmed of the late Chief Ompure of the Waorani, believed to be the only person on the planet who was in contact with the Taromenane.

Chief Ompure was later murdered which led to a massacre of uncontacted Taromenane and the kidnapping of two Taromenane girls.

The Ecuadorian government has stalled answering simple questions about whether natural resources found in indigenous territories, especially that of uncontacted tribes, will be leveraged across the country. The answer to those questions can be found in a recent case on Sarayacu territory where upon explosives were used without consent or or respect for those that inhabited the area.

The Interamerican Court said in its final sentence that this was a violation of territorial rights and it has to be emphasized that the resources found in indigenous territories also belong to these people.

[quote]Article. 57 of the Ecuadorian Constitution
“The territories of the peoples in voluntary isolation are irreducible and intangible and they shall be closed to all extractive activities. The state has adopted measures to guarantee there lives, enforce their self-determination and will to remain in isolation and safeguard the enforcement of their rights. The violation of these rights shall constitute the crime of ethnocide which will be criminalized by law.”[/quote]

The ILO Convention 169 guarantees the right of indigenous or native peoples to own and control without limits their lands and territories in art. 13 as well as articles 10, 25, 26, 27, 28 and others in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2.4. Culture

contacted tribeThe establishment of homogenous states where everybody speaks a single language, receives standardized education, and live similar conformist lifestyles is one of the victories of capitalism ending the kind of cultures that oppose their system.

The homogenous culture favours development of the capatilist state and the free market where consumption becomes more important than creativity.

The most affected have been indigenous peoples because more than just struggling to survive they are seeking to save what is left of their culture.

[pullquote align=”right”]Here we must also remember the violation of intellectual property: recent research reveals that the Waorani had blood samples taken from them without permission by people close to the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

These blood samples were sent to laboratories around the world to study their DNA – a clear violation genetic heritage.
[/pullquote]

With uncontacted peoples as we have said, the defense of their culture is closely linked to the defense of their life and their right to self-determination.

The right of uncontacted peoples to exist has been elevated to the category of IUS COGENS in international law so that all states have an obligation to protect the existence of uncontacted peoples, no state can play down its obligation.

All members of the international community must prevent and punish the crime of genocide, which so strongly threatens the existence of uncontacted tribes.

Violating the territory of a people and their self-determination qualifies as ethnocide under our legislation in Ecuador.

The criminalization for ethnocide does not exist and has never been applied even though as stated above there are already cases of tribes disappearing as well as attempts to facilitate the disappearence of uncontacted tribes like the Taromenane and Tagaeri. The crime of genocide should apply to those who blatantly vote for oil exploration in the territories of uncontacted tribes.

2.5. Free and Informed Prior Consent and Consultation

Section 7 of art. 57 of the Ecuadorian Constitution states with regards to indigenous peoples:
[quote]”The free, prior and informed, within a reasonable period on plans and programs of exploration, exploitation and marketing of non-renewable resources that are on their land and that may affect their environment and culture, participate in the benefits deriving from such projects and to receive compensation for damages social, cultural and environmental factors that cause them. The inquiry to be conducted by competent authorities is mandatory and timely. If the consent of the community consulted is not obtained, will proceed according to the Constitution and the law.

A free and informed prior consultation, within a reasonable timeframe, about prospecting plans and programs, the exploitation and comercialization of unrenewable resources that are found on thier land that may affect their environment or culture; to participate in the benefits derived from such projects and receive compensation for damages to social, cultural, and environmental factors caused to them. The consultation to be conducted in a timely manner by competent authorities is mandatory. If consent is not obtained from the community consulted, proceeds must conform with the Constitution and the law.”[/quote] The Interamerican Court of Human Rights however has stated in several judgments that communities and indigenous peoples should be guaranteed the right to prior consent that is free and informed.

This differs from The Right to Prior Consultation and is mandatory that the consent of communities, a right that best corresponds to indigenous peoples, is a right that is also enshrined Convention 169 of the ILO and the Declaration of the United Nations for Indigenous Peoples.

Prior consent that is free and informed, without harassment that stems primarily from exploitative companies, is a right to all indigenous peoples concerning their territories and resources. Currently this has become a weapon to defend the territories of farms, also it sometimes limits the state and its extractive endeavors, says Mikel Berraondo, an expert on human rights for indigenous villages: [quote]”One of its aims is to regulate and limit the implementation by States using the doctrines of public interest or social need that have become the perfect legal and political instrument to subrogate the rights of indigenous peoples and keep them always in the background to prioritize the rights of the majority.

Consent must be given freely, should be obtained by project implementers prior to the start of activities, and must be granted by the affected villages being based on the full understanding of the broad scope of all the issues involved in the activities or decisions in question. Hence the formulation and free, prior and informed”[/quote]

disaster ecuador chevron texaco
In many indigenous villages this “consent” has been achieved by force, trickery, lavish gifts and lies. This “consent” is not valid and is in clear violation of the right to be consulted.

Also consent must be given by a majority of the inhabitants but what happens in many cases is the community leader signs a document in exchange for “favors”

¿But what happens to uncontacted tribes? How can we understand the right to free and informed consent? Mikel Berraondo contests that: [quote]“In the case of uncontacted peoples, the critical importance of duel systems to limit and protect facilitates the application of this principal. Limitation, enforces the application of this principle by completely preventing and limiting the possibilities to act on the territories of uncontacted peoples, without their consent one cannot perform any action within their territories, and the pursuit of consent by force or coercion would expose serious human rights violations, among which include the crime of genocide.

And protection, precisely because of the fact that its consent is a prerequisite for any action on their territories means that any intrusion into their territories or cultures means a violation of their rights, among which, as just mentioned, includes the crime of genocide which is generated between violating and acting without consent.”[/quote]

As Mikel Berraondo states in the case of indigenous peoples there must be free and informed prior consent and in the case of uncontacted tribes there can be no type of exploitation on their territories or of their resources.

amazon pollutionHere we must clarify that the right of self-determination for uncontacted tribes means protecting their territory by preventing exploitation and not because there exists a zone declared intangible, which is to say that we must see the right to life of these people, the IUS COGENS.

In the case of Ecuador and the Yasuní we can say that we have two arguments against oil extracting activity: the first is based on an executive order declaring the Intangible Zone as well as the fundamental right to self-determination of indigenous Waorani in the region.

The second argument is the right of self-determination for the uncontacted tribes in the region and the protection of the principal of Free and Informed Prior Consultation: Limitation and Protection.

The legal loophole the Ecuadorian government is using to exploit blocks 31 and 43 of the Yasuni ITT is Article 407 of the country’s constitution that states: [quote]”prohibits extractive non-renewable resources in protected areas and areas designated as intangible, including logging, and in exceptional cases exploitation of these resources can be based on a request by the President of the Republic after a declaration of national interest by the National Assembly, which he sees fit may call a referendum.”[/quote]

But this foundation is lacking in respect for international norms and treaties ratified by Ecuador. It even contradicts the Ecuadorian Constitution which says the State’s duty is to ensure the human rights enshrined in the Constitution and in international instruments, in accordance with that which is stated in the second clause of articles 424 and 426 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador.

oil ecuador tribesFinally we must alert the world that the 10th Round Table for Oil is coming to tender oil blocks found on indigenous ancestral territories, in some cases the blocks cover the entire territory.

16% of Waorani territory will be affected by the new petroleum blocks and in the case of the Achuar, Andoas, Shiwiar y Zapara nationalities these blocks will occupy all of their territory.

The Ecuadorian government has said it carried out a prior consultation, but not the procedure it should have done, so this round again violates the rights of indigenous peoples.

All this is happening in the beurocratic jungle of paper and decrees while environmentalists and NGO’s continue the resistance against big oil on the ground in the jungle.

Neither the army nor the police or government have been able to erase from the minds of indigenous people and mestizos the catastrophic contamination caused by petroleum exploitation. In the words of one fighter on the “battlefield” against the petroleum giant Chevron Texaco: [quote]“We’ll fight this until hell freezes over and then we’ll fight it on the ice.”[/quote] [mc4wp_form]

Luis Xavier Solis on the 55,140 refugees in Ecuador less famous than Julian Assange

in Human Rights/Interviews/Rights of Refugees by

colombia_armyToday on Chekhov’s Kalashnikov we are going to talk with Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca who works for the Comittee of Human Rights of Orellana in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This organization which works closely with UNHCR is in charge of protecting and defending some of the worlds most vulnerable and forgotten people – refugees that have fled Colombians civil war in search for asylum and a better life in Ecuador.

Chekhov: Can you explain your work, the organization where you work, and what you specialize in?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: I work in two areas through a project with UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) 1.- Consulting and advocacy for people in need of international protection, in this case especially for Colombian refugees who are the majority of people who need international protection by the Colombian internal conflict. 2. – Counselling and Advocacy in cases where human rights have been violated, in recent cases we have have had were against human rights violations by the police.

[pullquote align=”right”]FOR REFUGEES:
if you come to Ecuador the first think you must do approach a human rights organizationor ACNUR in Ecuador, inform yourself about the request for asylum before you reach 15 days in the country otherwise the Ecuadorian government will not consider your request.

Refugees should contact the following organizations on the northern Ecuadorian border:
– Servivio Jesuita para refugiados
– ACNUR
– Fundación Tarabita
– Asylum Access Ecuador
– Federación de mujeres de Sucumbios
– Oxfam
– Comité de Derechos Humanos de Orellana,
– Defensoría del Pueblo de Sucumbios y Orellana
– Cualquier otra sede, estas organizaciones trabajamos en refugio y podemos brindar asesoría.
[/pullquote]

Chekhov: What are the statistics, that is the number of Colombian refugees who are living in Ecuador and especially in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana?

Chekhov: What are the statistics, that is the number of Colombian refugees that are living in Ecuador especially in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: well in Ecuador there are around 56,000 refugees of which 90% are of Colombian nationality! The other nationalities are Palestinians, Haitians, Spanish, Cubans, etc.

Chekhov: and how does the Ecuadorian government treat the Colombian refugees in comparison with that of other nations?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: well you´ve got to remember the major part of Colombian refugees were recognised and registered in Ecuador in 2009-2010 after the Bombing of Angostura. Before 2012 Ecuadorian legislation was less rigorous until the issuance of Decree 1182 of May 30, 2012 which restricted access to asylum.

We´ve heard from different areas in the government its position that refugees are an expense to the country principally Colombians which are the majority however this does not take into account the contribution they have made to the Ecuadorian economy with their labour and microenterprises. The government with the issuance of this decree severely restricted access to the right to shelter, so much that of the 100% of requests for shelter only 4% are accepted when before the decree it was about 60%.

Chekhov: and they are rejected legitimate refugees now?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: the majority yes, people who have elements of refugees, as well with such small percentages almost all are left out.

Chekhov: and what happens when they reject one´s asylum, they have to return to Colombia or do they stay in Ecuador?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: that´s the problem, in lots of cases when there are refugee elements, the need for international protection, they cannot return.

[quote style=”1″]Suppose you are a refugee and your country does not protect you or does not want to protect you, therefore if he comes to seek refuge in another country there is a need for protection, either a regular or irregular armed group, that pursues them, threatens them, makes them fear for their lives or for their political expressions, social, racial, etc.

In lots of cases we have seen that the refugees stay in Ecuador without official documents which puts them in a vulnerable situation, they can be exploited laborally or sexually.[/quote]This is because the current government decree (1182) left off numbers to the right to be able to recognise victims of violence that the law had previously incorporated under the declaration of Cartegena, but it is no longer beholden in Ecuadorian law. That was part of the law and therefore should be applied.

Life For refugees in Ecuador less famous than Julian Assange

assange asilo
Julian Assange in Ecuador´s London Embassy

Chekhov: everybody has heard of the Ecuador´s most famous refugee, the Australian Julian Assange, can you tell us about some of the refugees that have fled violence in Colombia but have been forgotten by the Ecuadorian state and the rest of the world?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …what you say is precisely the contradiction that has befallen the Ecuadorian state, already on a global level and in a principled way it gave asylum to Assange and a pass to Edward Snowden, however the life of Colombian refugees is not that easy.

The fact of fleeing from a conflict of over 50 years is very complicated, to get to a different albeit close country, finding a place to live, where to work, where to raise children… These issues are really sobering to think about.

[pullquote align=”right”] “Up to June 2013 the Ecuadorian government has recognized 55,141 refugees in the country. Since 2000, when there were 390 refugees, 168 525 people have applied for refugee status in Ecuador. About 23% of them are children and adolescents.”
ACNUR in Ecuador

Testimonials from Colombian Refugees
[/pullquote]

A lot of the refugees in Ecuador that have fled the Colombian conflict were only able to bring identification documents so there access to rights is very precarious. Generally the same authorities that are making systems where [refugees] are unable to register because of the number of refugee visas, is the one for social security and education.

Afterwards they also become vulnerable because when they start to perform jobs they are poorly paid, being characterized by cheap hard labour, in other cases they are not even paid for their labour…

This is the case for those who do find work, for the rest they have to look at finding more informal ways to earn a living, ways where they are exploited for their situation of always being on the move, which is to say the solutions aren’t comprehensive. There is still much to do in terms of providing refuge, while we agree that it is not just an Ecuadorian problem but an international one, but I think the government should deal with more attention to this sector.

Ejercito Ecuatoriano
Ejercito Ecuatoriano
[quote style=”1″]The problems are greatest in the zones by the border where the both the Ecuadorian and Colombian civilian populations live in a situation of uncertainty.

They are already violations of rights by the Ecuadorian military, the Colombian military, and armed groups, this is to say they are a population living in the line of fire.[/quote]

Women and Children Refugees from Colombia

refugiadas colombianas
The Federation of Women in Sucumbíos is a program that gives comprehensive care to women refugees from Colombia, where programa de atención integral a mujeres refugiadas de Colombia, which “promotes the end of impunity for cases of domestic violence against women.”
Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Also you have to remember that 70% of Colombian refugees are women and children.

Chekhov: and what happened to the fathers and husbands?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: there are lots of motives, they were assasinated, they have been disappeared, or the women are on there own, or the husbands come afterwards…

For the part of ACNUR and other social organizations like us at the Committee of Human Rights of Orellana, we have tried to help, provide counselling so there rights are not violated, however the number that we meet is still small compared to the refugee population in total.

Chekhov: can you tell us about some of these recent cases where the human rights of refugees have been violated by police?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: There exists many occassions where because of the movement of people that need asylum do not have the correct documentation to travel throughout the country, whether thats because they havent sought asylum with the Ecuadorian state or because the authorities do not know how to identify a refugee and the rights they have.

There exists and continues to exist various detentions by police of people who need asylum, however this is to ignore the constitutional rights of refugees who are in parts 9, 40, 41 and others of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of movement, the right to asylum and refuge, universal citizenship.

The police have no power in their grading of if a person is a refugee or not so all you can do is apply the documentation and if the person does not have it says they are a refugee or is in need of international protection what needs to happen is to refer the case to the Department of Redwhat to do is to refer the case to the Directorate of Refugees with their facility to analyse and consider the case.

What we know is that there are still abuses principally when they detain refugees working in prostitution, starting first with that yes they are recognised as refugees and can work in whatever lawful activity such as prostitution, secondly you cannot be detained and have their documents withdrawn because the police do not have the power to do that.

The best way to end these abuses is to denounce them so that they do not repeat and to sanction those responsible for denying these human rights.

There also exists illegal detentions of refugees without respect due process, only because they are presumed to have commited a crime because of the stigma that much of the Ecuadorian authorities have of refugees from Colombia.

The World Refugee Crisis

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: The topic of the global refugee crisis as you know is a phenomenon that isn´t going to finish any time soon, rather the situation has worsened, principally in the Middle East with Syria, North Africa, and how things are going there will be added to by more climate refugees and by the adverse conditions in which the world is developing….

For this I believe the solution legal, social, but in the background is POLICY.

Chekhov: Right now in Australia there is an electoral campaign where the two main political parties are trying to demonstrate to a xenophobic and sometimes racist electorate who can create the toughest policies against refugees to send a message and stop them entering the country, what do you say to them?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …what is happening on a global level is to believe that economic crises and lack of employment is due to refugees, that economic migrants are those who take away jobs, however this is only an appearance to hide the truth, which is that the crises, lack of employment is due to the accumulation of capital in a few hands, in the minority, less than 1% of the population.. these political speeches stick in times of global economic crises and sometimes ordinary people usually believe them.

It is therefore important to be more critical about where these speeches are coming from, speeches that are supported by the mainstream media that are repeated until they permeate in the minds of the population.

[quote style=”1″]You have to put yourself in teh shoes of the migrants and refugees and understand there reality, you cannot restrict the right for refuge, its a human right, and governments around the world need to respect that right[/quote]

Refugees under Juan Manuel Santos and Alvaro Uribe

santos y uribe Chekhov: I want to ask you of the armed groups: paramilitary, military, FARC Guerillas, who are causing the most violations against human rights?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: generally I believe the Colombian military and the paramilitary. But it seems like the guerrilla in Colombia have forgotten there founding principles and there exists many rural people that are persecuted and killed.

What happens is that it is a field of war, a civilian has to pay the armed groups without reason in many cases, if the armed groups see a frightened farmer, one that was forced to give water to the paramilitaries or the military, they are branded as an informant o vice versa.

Chekhov: what is the level of refugees under the former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe in comparison with the current President Juan Manuel Santos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Ive already mentioned that the majority of Colombian refugees were granted asylum between 2009-2010, during the government of Uribe after the bombing of Angostura, where the Colombian military bombed Ecuador.

But in reality there is not a big difference in the amount of people that are request asylum in Ecuador between the government of Uribe or Santos. The violence still continues to be common, armed groups of the state or non-state continue to displace people in Colombia, the number of displaced Colombians is the biggest in the world with almost 2.4 million people and the numbers have not fallen.
[mc4wp_form]

Go to Top