Neoliberal and anti-Neoliberal Indigenous People
Letter post by Carlos Mazabanda (CDES)
Comments by Teresa Martínez
Unfortunately, neoliberalism has also reached indigenous groups. This is a letter written by Jose Avilés, former president of CONFENIAE (Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon) to Mining Watch Canada. The letter was post on the Ascendant Copper Corporation Website, a Canadian mining company operatin in Ecuador. In January 2007 the new directive of CONFENIAE was elected, and Domingo Ankuash (Shuar) is the new president. He is the only one acknowledged by CODENPE (Council of the Nationalities and People of Ecuador) and legitimized by the President of the Republic of Ecuador.
Domingo Ankuash inagurated as president of CONFENIAE, Puyo, February 2007
Jose Avilés is a “fake” indigenous leader and one of the mains architects, together with former president of Ecuador Lucio Gutierrez, of the division of the Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement, which is going through one of the most difficult moments in its history. This year for example, I witnessed what it was a historic step to recover the Amazonian indigenous movement, as their leaders were polarized between the neoliberal and anti-neoliberal interests. Finally, a new CONFENIAE was elected, although their leaders have not been able to work at CONFENIAE premises yet, as Jose Avilés and his group have occupied the office and have even used violence to stop the new directive from taking up their positions.
In his letter to Mining Watch Canada Avilés states:
“On your website, I read many references about the evils of mining in Ecuador and the impacts to our communities, but your website fails to mention that these Canadian companies, build schools, repairs, churches, build community halls, houses, improve our roads,support cultural/languae programs, provide health care to our families and educational scholarships to our children. You also fals to mention that mining jobs pay very well (4 or 5 times the national minimum wage), and this industry is the single largest employer of Indigenous (Shuar) People in the Zamora Chinchipe Province”.
It seems to me Avilés is perpetuating the image of the transnational company as a ‘Saviour” of the Indigenous People (IP). In fact what happens is that IP become absolutely dependent of the company, which is shown as a substitute of the State. It seems to me from this letter that Aviles understands development as building infrastructure for the communities (most part of the time not used by the community) , and he does not say a single word about a development with identity, following the indigenous model. He seems to forget as well the strong opposition against mining in this province, he seems to forget the blackmailing and division strategies used by the companies, and he seems to forget the legacy left by the oil industry in the North of the country, which has resulted in the cultural and biological loss of Indigenous Groups.
Go to Mining Watch Canada if you want to know more about this issue
This is the response of CONFENIAE (the legal one) to the letter :
“The mining and oil companies and others that have invaded our territories
in Amazonia have organized a campaign by a false CONFENIAE, lead by
Jose Aviles, who is sending out communiques in the international arena, to
confuse public institutions, governments, and international cooperation
organizations about what is happening in the Ecuadorian Amazonia. The
Indigenous Mafia lies in the most shameless and condemnable way,
usurping the name of the CONFENIAE and of the Shuar Federation of
Zamora Chinchipe FEPNASH-ZCH, presided over by our colleague Angel
Awak. They are not ashamed to send communiques prepared in the public
relations offices of the mining companies, affirming such ridiculous things
as that mineral exploitation provides education, hospitals, and culture to our
communities. If we have received so many benefits, how is it possible that
we live in the situation of misery and abandonment that they themselves
recognize in their writings”
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