IPMSDL Statement Regarding Threat to the Life of Ms. Gloria Ushigua, Indigenous Peoples Rights Defender

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The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) condemns the continuing harassment and threat on the life of Ms. Gloria Ushigua. Ushigua is a member of the IPMSDL, coordinator of the indigenous women’s group Ashinwaka and a staunch defender of indigenous peoples and environmental rights in Ecuador for almost a decade.

Recent events have led us to conclude that the threat on her life is real, and is posed by Ecuadorian state forces in collaboration with the Ecuadorian judiciary and several big multinational and state-owned companies interested in exploiting oil deposits in the territories of the Sapara people, of which Ushigua is a member. In 2013, government-owned media outlets started a smear campaign against Ushigua. In 2014 she was charged by the Ecuadorian court with terrorism, public obstruction and sabotage in relation to a peaceful assembly that Ushigua led.

In 2015 three policemen broke into Ushigua’s home in the city of Puyo,using teargas to immobilize Ushigua and her family members, beating her and torturing her using taser guns. Her property and home and office were also destroyed during the “raid.”

On 2 May 2016 her sister-in-law, Anacleta Dahua Cuji, was believed to have been raped and then killed while working on her farm by four men suspected of being Ecuadorian state agents. Her niece Casiela Grefa, on the other hand, was physically restrained by four men on 26 May 2016. They interrogated her regarding the whereabouts and activities of Ushigua. On 31 May 2016, in an act clearly meant to intimidate Ushigua, five unknown men camped outside her house throughout the night.

These acts by the Ecuadorian state agents and judiciary are clearly in violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Indigenous peoples all over the world have the right to self determination and the freedom to choose how to use their lands for the benefit of their people. No indigenous person should be abused, harassed, tortured or killed simply for protecting their territories.

These brazen acts of harassment by state agents against Ushigua remind us of other indigenous leaders like Xavier Akien of the Philippines, Jannie Lasimbang of Malaysia and countless other indigenous peoples’ rights advocates who risk their lives to fight for their rights as well as their children’s right to a better future. This also reminds us that in the modern-day world that we live in, rights defenders and advocates are faced with rising state militarism.

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We call on the Ecuadorian Government to heed the following calls:
1.Immediately cease harassment and threats to the life of Ms. Gloria Ushigua and her family;
2.Investigate and prosecute those responsible for harassment of Ushigua and her family which has caused the death of her sister-in-law Anacleta Dahua Cuji;
3.Cease the implementation of so-called development projects that are detrimental to the life and culture of the Sapara and other indigenous peoples in Ecuador;
4.Respect indigenous peoples’ right to self determination as enshrined in the UNDRIP, of which Ecuador is a signatory.

We call on the Inter-American Human Rights Council and the United Nations to:
1.Investigate and ascertain the culpability of Ecuadorian state agents in harassing Ushigua and other indigenous peoples’ and environmental activists;
2.Immediately determine the liability of large multi-national and State-owned companies in violating the rights of the Sapara peoples and other indigenous peoples in Ecuador.

We urge everyone to remain vigilant against all forms of attack on the right of indigenous peoples to self determination. We call on all advocates and activists to stand firm, to not be cowed, and to fight back where necessary and needed.

Stop the killings! End militarization! Fight Back!

Ms. Beverly Longid
IPMSDL Global Coordinator

*photos courtesy of gettyimages.com and amazonwatch.org