For centuries, Indigenous people in various corners of the world have been thrown off of their property so their land and resources could be taken for aristocrats in far away lands. It was a war that began hundreds of years ago, and that war is still being waged today.
Just this week, it was announced that an indigenous leader from Ecuador was tortured and killed in the midst of a controversial fight against foreign mining companies who have unjustly taken land that has been claimed by indigenous people for centuries.
José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a former vice-president of the Shuar Federation of Zamora, had been missing since November 28th, and turned up dead just days ago, with some close to him saying that he was tortured.
“His body was beaten, bones were broken. He had been tortured and he was thrown in the river. The mere fact that they buried him before telling us, the family, is suspicious,” Domingo Ankuash, a Shuar leader told The Guardian this week.
Not only was he in the midst of fighting against the Mirador copper and gold mine, but Tendetza was also scheduled to testify at a United Nations environmental summit that is taking place this week. His testimony could have played a significant role for indiginous land rights in the region.
“This is a camouflaged crime. In Ecuador, multinational companies are invited by the government and get full state security from the police and the army. The army and police don’t provide protection for the people; they don’t defend the Shuar people. They’ve been bought by the company. The authorities are complicit in this crime. They will never tell us the truth.” Ankuash said.
According to Ankuash, the men who were harassing José Isidro Tendetza Antún also set fire to his home.
“He was not just anyone. He was a powerful leader against the company. That’s why they knocked down his house and burnt his farm. The government will never give us a response; justice belongs to them. They will call us terrorists but that doesn’t mean we are not going to shut up” he said.
Sadly, this is just the latest in a long line of attacks against indigenous leaders in struggles to protect their land. Two of the most high profile cases are that of Bosco Wisum in 2009 and Freddy Taish in 2013.
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