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Project June 12, 2019

The Sarayaku Resistance: A 30-Year Story of Territorial and Cultural Defense Against Extractivism

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Patricia Gualinga did not imagine that her life would be dedicated to the resistance of her people. Image by Jonathan Rosas. Ecuador, 2019.
Patricia Gualinga did not imagine that her life would be dedicated to the resistance of her people. Image by Jonathan Rosas. Ecuador, 2019.

This project explores how Ecuadorian state persecution against environmental and land defenders has become a common modus operandi in Ecuador. With nearly 200 cases of activists prosecuted for their opposition to extractivism—wood, mining, and oil—in the last decade, the Ecuadorian government is curtailing environmental activism by levelling charges of terrorism against community leaders. In a region where environmental leaders are murdered in record numbers, Ecuador's differentiated pattern of judicial harassment against them warrants a serious investigation with on-the-ground reporting and data analysis.

The Sarayaku are a kichwa community in the Amazon that has resisted extractive activities for over three decades. Its most visible leader, Patricia Gualinga, hails from a long line of protectors of their ancestral territory and cultural traditions. Menaces, however, have been rife: Gualinga has been threatened, the Sarayaku community was classified as a terrorist group by the government, and oil companies insist on working in the Sarayaku territory, despite legal protection afforded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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