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The Guardian reports false accusations about death of indigenous leader

On December 6th 2014, The Guardian ran a story about the death of Jose Tendetza of the Shuar Federation of Zamora. The article included serious and false allegations about Ecuador’s Government.

Two people were quoted claiming that Ecuador’s government was “complicit in the crime” itself or in “hiding” it, but no reference to the government’s actual response (which included
a reward of $100,000 for accurate information) or any quote from a government spokesperson is given.

Below is a response from Dr Juan Falconi Puig, Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UK

Clearly the murder of Jose Tendetza is a very serious matter. In order for those responsible be brought to account, it is crucial that the investigation is rigorous, evidence-based and transparent.

Contrary to the allegations reported in this article, Ecuador’s Interior Minister, Jose Serrano, has already called for the investigation into his death to be independently overseen by the indigenous Shuar federation, FICSH, to ensure its transparency. A reward has been offered of $100,000 dollars to anyone who can provide accurate information about the crime, and the results of a further autopsy have been published stating death was caused by strangulation. The claim that Ecuador’s government is somehow complicit in this crime or attempting to hide it is as outrageous as it is baseless.

It is vital that the rights of the indigenous peoples and their surroundings are protected, and over the last seven years Ecuador has made tremendous progress. Ecuador is now officially a plurinational state recognising indigenous languages as official and conferring specific rights for indigenous communities and territories. Over 1.3m hectares of natural habitat has been conserved due to a scheme rewarding communities and landowners for leaving forests undamaged, a sevenfold increase since 2006.

Ecuador is a world leader in reduction of poverty and access to education, and our indigenous communities are the group which has benefited most. It is this process, and the transformation away from extractivism to a high-skilled economy that Ecuador is ploughing its resources.

Ecuador has also taken the lead internationally in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and of nature, setting up an observatory on the activities of multinationals in the global south and passing a motion at the UN Human Rights Council that a legally binding instrument be set up holding multinationals to account. The ongoing refusal of Oil Giant Chevron-Texaco to pay for causing one of the biggest environmental disasters in history in Ecuador’s Amazon is an example of why such a body is necessary.

Central to Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution is the legal rights of communities and of nature, ensuring justice and respecting the rule of law. It is crucial that justice is done in the case of Jose Tendetza, and Ecuador’s government is committed to making this happen. This case must be investigated transparently, not be used as a political tool against a progressive government.

 Juan Falconi Puig

Ambassador of Ecuador to the United Kingdom