This is the stuff you read in books, I kept thinking, as I sat across from José Serrano, the CDES attorney who also represented the Sarayaku people in their fight for justice. Things like this don’t ACTUALLY happen anymore, do they? I mean, these are the types of things students of human rights research about-things that happened in the past and are now being rectified.
We study them as horrors of long ago, lessons learned, and memories that should not die. But, the story of the Sarayaku people that José told me yesterday afternoon in the quiet offices of CDES began within the last decade . . . and continues today.
It is a relatively common story here in Ecuador (and perhaps throughout the poverty-stricken Third World in one form or another)-the government, desperate for income to pay off international debts, contracts with foreign petroleum companies to extract and export Ecuadorian crude oil.
Unfortunately, these oil reserves are all located in the territories of the Amazonian indigenous communities-people who do not want their traditional way of life disrupted, especially when that disruption not only mean sickness and contamination, but also new rounds of broken promises from both the international companies and the Ecuadorian government.
And so, they protest-at first mobilizations and gatherings like the national marches that took place throughout the late 1990s, resulting in the overthrow of two Ecuadorian presidents; also the “Campamentos de Paz y Vida” that Sarayaku formed in 2003 with the help of international observers and Ecuadorian NGOs like CDES. Letter-writing campaigns and a bilingual website followed (www.sarayaku.com). The plight of the Sarayaku people became internationally known-at least within certain academic and indigenous/human rights circles.
Posted By Christina Fetterhoff
Posted Jul 22nd, 2004