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Ecuadorian Government Shuts Down Environmental NGO Pachamama

The Ecuadorian government ordered the closure and “dissolution” of the NGO Fundación Pachamama [es], dedicated to the defense of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest and opposed to oil exploitation without prior consultation in the region. The government alleged that the organisation was “affecting the public peace”.

The action, ordered by the Ministry of the Environment and carried out through the Ministry of the Interior and the Police on the 4th of December, 2013, is based [es] on the allegation that the Foundation has fallen into “deviation from its statutory purpose and objectives; and for interference in public policy, threatening the internal security of the State and affecting the public peace”, according to a note [es] published on the Ministry's website. Furthermore, the Ministry published via Twitter the Ministerial Accord 125 [es] where the reasons for the closure are explained (See 1, 2, 3 and 4) [es]:

Ministerial Accord No. 123 dissolves the NGO Foundation Pachamama

These justifications allude to the recent indigenous protests [es] carried out in the context of the XI Ronda Petrolera [es] (XI Oil Round), an activity where the government put out a tender for 13 blocks of hydrocarbon exploitation in the Southeastern part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest.

During these protests some foreign representatives were the target of mockery and insults by the protesters. In response President Rafael Correa drew attention to the Police for not taking the necessary measures on his TV show on Saturday, and offered a public apology [es] to those foreign workers and representatives who were attacked.

Yasunidos [es], another environmental defense group, in this case focused on the Yasuní National Park, was one of the first to draw attention to what was happening:

Urgent! Right now Police are arriving at Fundación Pachamama. We reject any retaliation against those of us who fight for Yasuni

The Minister of the Interior himself published photos of the closure of Fundación Pachamama:

Alert: right now an operation to dissolve NGOs linked to recent attacks

Fundación Pachamama's staff immediately organised a protest action, as seen in these photos:

Fundación Pachamama's staff gagged by the closure of their organisation a few moments ago

Belén Páez (F. Pachamama) “They are closing us down for denouncing violations of indigenous human rights: Taromenane, 11 oil round”

Some Ecuadorian internet users expressed their approval of the measure:

Finally this corrupt NGO is disappearing well done [President] Correa hahaha

But others expressed their anger and disagreement on Twitter:

[The Minister of Interior] is just following orders from [President Correa]. I remind you how on Saturday he expressed his anger with [Fundación Pachamama]

The dissolution of Fundacion Pachamama is a confirmation of authoritarianism, what an outrage!

They closed down Pachamama with an urgent summary trial? Was there prior notification and a right to defense? Are we in a State governed by the rule of law or not?

Closing down an opposition organisation under the excuse of Ecuador's national security brings back memories of Latin America's horrific past

Also protest actions were starting to be organised against the government measure:

URGENT: Vigil in rejection of the dissolution of [Fundación Pachamama] and in rejection of Decree 16. 5pm, Plaza San Francisco

STATEMENT http://t.co/E8Dq11BZ96 We are calling a press conference, this Thursday 5/12 11am in Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

Fundación Pachamama's statement following the closure classifies it as arbitrary and indicates that they neither support nor participate in any acts of violence, distancing themselves from the acts they are accused of. The statement also announced that they will contest the decision and added:

No permitiremos que la agresión de que somos víctima, desvíe la atención y el debate del tema de fondo que es la violación de los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas amazónicos y de los derechos de la Naturaleza, por una ronda petrolera realizada contra la voluntad de los legítimos propietarios de los territorios afectados, a través de una “socialización”, no una consulta.

We will not allow this aggression that we are victims of to draw attention and debate away from the issue at hand which is the violation of the collective rights of Amazonian indigenous people and the rights of Nature, due to a round of oil tenders conducted against the will of the legitimate owners of the affected territories, through a “socialisation”, not a consultation.

The Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organisations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA), also released a statement [es] condemning the events:

Rechazamos esta decisión intempestiva del gobierno nacional y exigimos se garantice el derecho a la legítima defensa de la Fundación Pachamama. Exhortamos a todas las organizaciones nacionales e internacionales que trabajan por los derechos humanos, colectivos y de la naturaleza, se pronuncien ante este acto represivo. Todo nuestro apoyo a Fundación Pachamama.

We reject this untimely decision by the national government and demand that Fundación Pachamama's right to a legitimate defense be guaranteed. We urge all national and international organisations working for human rights, collective rights and nature's rights to speak out against this repressive act. We offer all our support to Fundación Pachamama.

Fundación Pachamama conducted a press conference together with other environmental organisations at 11am on December 5th:

Fundación Pachamama is more than just a physical office! We will keep moving forward. TODAY press conference, 11am, Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

A press conference is beginning on the closure of [Fundación Pachamama] that was carried out yesterday

“They are closing us down because we denounce the fact that uncontacted peoples are also in block 79 which is being put to tender in the oil round”

“Due process has been violated not only for judicial processes but also administrative processes. Pachamama should have been informed” Dr Trujillo

Demand popular consultation, it is not a crime for the people to to speak out for Yasuni! Limiting participation is violence

After the press conference the Foundation shared a petition on Avaaz [es] to demand that their “freedom of association and expression” be protected:

Help us to revoke the closure of our organisation with your signature!

 

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