Indigenous Water Rights Protests Met With Repression In Ecuador: Call For Solidarity

On September 28th 2008, Ecuador joined countries throughout Latin American in passing a new, more progressive, Constitution. The new Magna Carta explicitly prohibits water privatization and recognizes the human right to water. Since debate began over a proposed water law, campesino and indigenous organizations have been mobilizing in support of a proposal that respects constitutional principles and the participation of Ecuador's diverse peoples, a concept called “plurinationality.” Yet despite repeated attempts at dialogue, indigenous and campesino proposals have not been adopted, prompting protests and highway blockades.

On Tuesday, protests were renewed as the National Assembly took up with the second and final debate over the law. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and their highland branch, ECUARUNARI, along with community water systems, have been leading marches and road blockades. The government’s answer has been repression, including the detention of five community leaders in the south who now face serious charges.

Ecuador Solidarity Network (ESN) has translated the following call for solidarity from the Coalition of Andean Indigenous Organizations (CAOI). If you have any questions or need further information, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales

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Coalition of Andean Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) Bolivia, Ecuador, Perú, Colombia, Chile, Argentina

Stop the repression!
We stand up for life in Ecuador!

The government has responded to the indigenous Plurinational Mobilization with repression and refuses to incorporate the movement’s proposals into the Water Law.

The situation in Ecuador requires us to stand up and support our indigenous brothers and sisters in the defense of life and the implementation of an authentic plurinationality. The debate over the Water Law has ignited a conflict provoked by the persistence of President Rafael Correa in maintaining a neoliberal, extractivist model and systematically violate his own Constitution, which proclaims a Plurinational State and Good Living (buen vivir/sumak kawsay).

The mass National Mobilization in Defense of Water, Life and Food Sovereignty was brutally repressed last night in front of the National Assembly, and leaders are detained in the province of Azuay (city of Cuenca). One of them, Carlos Pérez, was beaten by the police and all five are accused of sabotage (a charge which carries a possible sentence of 8 to 12 years in prison). But the repression has not stopped the indigenous mobilizations, which are now concentrated before the National Assembly in Quito. Marches and highway blockades continue throughout the rest of the country. One group of leaders, including CONAIE President Marlon Santi and ECUARUNARI President Delfin Tenesaca, gained entry to the National Assembly and fear they could be forced out at any moment (this did in fact take place at around 9:30pm on Tuesday).

The indigenous proposals for the Water Law were presented in a timely manner. The CONAIE and its regional affiliates, particularly ECUARUNARI, sat down to dialogue with the government. But they were not heard. Rhetoric aside, Rafael Correa’s government increasingly looks like those of neighboring countries (Colombia and Peru) that impose extractivist neoliberal policies and repress and criminalize protest.

The Political Constitution of Ecuador, along with proclaiming a Plurinational State and Good Living, specifically establishes that water is a human right and its development should be public and communitarian. But the proposal under debate at the National Assembly insists on managing just one sector instead of accepting the indigenous movement’s proposal to create a Unified Water Authority that would be both plurinational and multicultural, as ECUARUNARI President Delfin Tenesaca reiterated yesterday before the Assembly.

The proposal also fails to guarantee the redistribution of water, currently concentrated in the hands of the big landlords, and thus supports continued privatization. It also fails to prioritize the use of water for agriculture or establish a minimum fee to ensure that all Ecuadorians have access to water.

What the indigenous organizations demand is obedience to the Constitution, so that Good Living and the Plurinational State are truly implemented. We demand that natural resources be placed in the hands of all sectors, without exception, and that life is respected. But the government and members of the Assembly insist on undermining the indigenous movement as it constructs a Plurinational State and Good Living.

The Ecuadorian indigenous people’s struggle is the struggle of all the world’s peoples. In your country, throughout the continent and around the world private water concessions held by the few are provoking conflicts that could very soon break the chains. Because water is not a “resource,” it is the blood of the Pachamama, it is the source of life and all human beings--humans, animals, plants--have the right to access it and should be its caretakers. Life is what is being defended in Ecuador, those rights of Mother Nature that are also inscribed in the Constitution.

Today more than ever our indigenous brothers and sisters and their organizations need our support. We call out to all indigenous peoples and social movement organizations throughout the region and the entire world to express their solidarity with concrete measures:
  • Mobilizations against Ecuadorian embassies and consulates throughout the world.
  • Releasing declarations in defense of life.
  • Sending protest letters to President Rafael Correa (a sample is below). [Please send the Spanish version, and not the English translation, unless you are writing your own letter.]

The defense of life is what is currently at play in Ecuador. This is our responsibility, and we will not fail.

To send letters to President Rafael Correa visit:

To communicate with the Ecuadorian National Assembly:

Teléfono: (593)2399-1001/290-0108 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To communicate with ECUARUNARI:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Telefax: (593-2) 2580713

Abya Yala, May 5 2010.

Miguel Palacín Quispe, General Coordinator CAOI Consejo Nacional de Ayllus and Markas del Qullasuyu, CONAMAQ (Bolivia) Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC Confederación Nacional de Comunidades del Perú Afectadas por la Minería, CONACAMI Perú Organización Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas en Argentina, ONPIA Identidad Territorial Lafkenche (Chile)

Sample letter


Mr.: Rafael Correa Delgado
Presidente de la República de Ecuador
Palacio de Carondelet

Mr. President:

We write to you to express our profound concern for the conflict in Ecuador that has been provoked by the attempt to impose a Water Law that contradicts your country’s Constitution and your declared support for Good Living, a Plurinational State, Rights of Mother Earth and Human Rights to Water.

The world has been witness to the indigenous peoples and organizations efforts to support a fair management of water, the source of life that cannot continue to be concentrated in the hands of a few. It must be managed in a plurinational and multicultural manner by a Unitary Authority accountable to all sectors and directed to guarantee food sovereignty.

But your government and the majority in the National Assembly support keeping water in the private hands of a few. And the demands of indigenous organizations have been responded to with repression and criminalization, including charges of terrorism and sabotage against the leader Carlos Pérez of Cuenca, Azuay.

Given all this, we call on you to hear the demands of indigenous people and incorporate their proposals into the Water Law, stop the repression, and free the detained leaders and cease all prosecutions against them. And most importantly, respect your Constitution; construct Good Living; and respect the Plurinational State and the Rights of Mother Earth.

The eyes of the world are on Ecuador, Mr. President. You have a historic responsibility in your hands: undertake a real change or continue maintaining an extractive model focused on individual accumulation and not the wellbeing of all Ecuadorians.


en español /in Spanish

Ciudad, 05 de mayo de 2010

Rafael Correa Delgado
Presidente de la República de Ecuador
Palacio de Carondelet

Señor Presidente:

Nos dirigimos a Usted para expresarle nuestra profunda preocupación por el conflicto que vive hoy Ecuador, provocado por el afán de imponer una Ley de Aguas contraria a la Constitución de su país y sus postulados de Buen Vivir, Estado Plurinacional, Derechos de la Madre Tierra y Derecho Humano al Agua.

El mundo ha sido testigo de los esfuerzos de los pueblos indígenas y sus organizaciones por alcanzar sus propuestas para una gestión equitativa del agua, fuente de vida que no puede continuar acaparada en pocas manos sino ser gestionada de manera plurinacional y multicultural, a través de una Autoridad Única con participación de todos los sectores de la población y dirigida a garantizar la soberanía alimentaria.

Sin embargo, su gobierno y la mayoría de la Asamblea Nacional se empeñan en mantener el agua en pocas manos privadas. Y las demandas de las organizaciones indígenas son respondidas con represión y criminalización, llegando incluso a acusar de terrorismo y sabotaje al dirigente Carlos Pérez de Azuay, Cuenca.

Frente a lo anterior, lo exhortamos a escuchar las demandas indígenas e incorporar sus propuestas en la Ley de Aguas, detener la represión, liberar a los detenidos y cortar los juicios abiertos en su contra. Y sobre todo a cumplir con su Constitución, construyendo el Buen Vivir y el Estado Plurinacional y respetando los Derechos de la Madre Tierra.

Los ojos del mundo están puestos en Ecuador, señor Presidente. Tiene usted en sus manos una responsabilidad histórica: emprender un verdadero cambio o continuar manteniendo un modelo extractivista destinado a la acumulación individual y no al bienestar de todos los ecuatorianos y ecuatorianas.



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