Indigenous leaders are calling for the release of six tribesmen implicated in a raid on an oilfield in Eastern Ecuador that left six soldiers injured, reports Andina and El Comercio.
According to Ecuador’s defense ministry, on January 6th a group of Waorani (Huaroani) tribesmen armed with spears, bows and arrows, blowguns, and firearms seized a facility run by Petrobell in Arajuno canton, in Pastaza province. The action shut down production at the oilfield, which normally produces 3,200 barrels a day.
The army then stormed the facility, resulting in clashes that led to six soldiers suffering gunshot wounds. No one was reported killed.
The defense ministry said the arrests were necessary to stop “looting” and disruption of oil production. The Waorani have been in custody since then.
However Franco Viteri, head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONAIE), is calling for the men to be released, arguing that they were defending their traditional territory from incursions by oil companies, which have caused substantial damage to forests and indigenous communities in eastern Ecuador in recent decades.
“For 40 years, oil companies, with the consent of the State, have been smashing, looting and sabotaging the good life of indigenous peoples, disrupting the lifestyle of the Waorani people, a situation that has… escalated conflicts,” he said in a statement.
Petrobell is a subsidiary of Synergy Group Corp., a conglomerate headquartered in Brazil.