One protester has been killed and many more are injured following clashes between indigenous tribal people and Ecuadorian police over proposed water and land rights laws.
The demonstrations near to Macas in Ecuador saw the indigenous protesters blockade a bridge linking two key provinces.
Actions around the country began on 27 September 2009 over indigenous fears the government’s new water laws would privatise water sources, give priority access to water to [the mining] industry and slash regulations for water contamination.
According to the protesters local police, backed by a helicopter, opened fire on demonstrators armed only with ‘ceremonial’ spears.
The attack has left at least one confirmed dead, Bosco Wisum, a teacher and member of the Shuar nation, and some 49 civilians and police injured.
President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon [CONFENIAE], Tito Puenchir, called the attack the start of a ‘civil war’ and called on the United Nations to intervene.
President Rafael Correa appealed for calm on national radio calling for ‘dialogue’ with the protesters. ["The problem is not the water law, or the mining, or the autonomy of the region," he said. "I fear that, deeper, there are motives of destabilization", Correa said]
On Monday 5 October, Correa and indigenous leaders met and were able to hammer out an agreement to address their concerns. The meeting produced a six-point agreement, which the President is expected to sign on 13 Ocrober 2009.
Firstly, the parties have agreed to institutionalise a permanent dialogue between the government and the native communities.
There will also be a commission set up to work on the Water bill and try to reach an intermediate agreement between the government’s plans and the indigenous groups.
A thorough analysis of possible modifications to the mining law, will be conducted and, finally, a commission, comprising two delegates each from the government the indigenous groups, will investigate the death last week of protester Bosco Wisum.
Indigenous groups had a leading role in overthrowing two previous Ecuadorian presidents.
A BBC article comments that, even though they are not as powerful as they used to be, native communities have grown stronger from this conflict.