Ecuador: Plurinational March for Life, Water, and Dignity

By Marc Becker

, by Upside Down World

Thousands of Indigenous protestors carrying a giant rainbow flag arrived in Ecuador’s capital of Quito on March 22 (World Water Day) after a two-week Plurinational March for Life, Water, and Dignity of the Peoples. The march was in opposition to government plans to commence with large-scale mining, as well as to defend Ecuador’s new progressive 2008 constitution against neoliberal attacks and to pressure for the passage of water and agrarian revolution laws. The protesters contended that mining will siphon off and contaminate water supplies, and that communities were not properly consulted about the environmental impacts of the projects.

The march began on March 8, International Women’s Day, in the canton of El Pangui in the southern province of Zamora Chinchipe, traveling about 700 kilometers to Quito. The march stopped in towns and cities along the route to build support for their demands. Feeder marches from across Ecuador as well as other leftist activists in the capital city joined the March 22 demonstration. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization that played a significant role in leading anti-neoliberal protests in the 1990s, led the marches. President Rafael Correa’s government organized counter-demonstrations on both March 8 and March 22.

On March 5, just before the march started, Correa signed a $1.4 billon contract with the Chinese-owned company Ecuacorriente to begin open-pit strip mining of copper. The planned Mirador mine will measure two kilometers across and 800 meters deep, and will be the South American country’s first such large-scale mining project. While Correa labeled the contract as one of the best ever negotiated, protesters were concerned about the negative environmental consequences of an expansion of resource extraction. Correa says that the mining projects will help fund development projects, including roads, schools, and hospitals. "We cannot be beggars sitting on a sack of gold," Correa said when he signed the contract.

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