After disappearing on November 28, the body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, former vice-president of the Shuar Federation of Zamora, has been found.
Tendetza’s son dug up the body after receiving a tip on December 2. Tendetza was buried in a grave marked “no name” and with his limbs bound by a blue rope.
According to Domingo Ankuash, a fellow Shuar leader, Tendetza’s body showed signs of torture. “His body was beaten, bones were broken,” he said. “He had been tortured and he was thrown in the river.”
Tendetza was an outspoken critic of the proposed deforestation set to take place in the southern Amazon, the ancestral home of the Shuar, Ecuador’s second-largest indigenous group. The destruction of some 450,000 acres of cloud forest has been proposed by the Chinese-owned mining firm Ecuacorriente to clear the way for its El Mirador open pit copper mine.
Environmentalists have criticized Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s enthusiasm for the $1.77 billion mine, which would produce 2.35 million tons of copper and generate an estimated $5.4 billion in royalties for the country. According to the Global Post, El Mirador – what would be the first open-pit mine in the country – would establish a hazardous precedent and could result in “devastating environmental impacts.”
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) has complained that the planning process for the mine has failed to include meaningful consultation with the native communities in the region, also pointing out that Ecuadorean law should prohibit building in the first place, as El Mirador is located near a natural watershed.
Tendetza passionately opposed the mine and was set to speak at the UN climate conference currently taking place in Lima, Peru. Prior to his death, Tendetza had been offered bribes to leave the area. When that didn’t work, his crops were burned and his house was attacked.
Ankuash told the Guardian that Tendetza’s death is part of “a camouflaged crime,” inextricable from the proposed rape of the Amazon. “In Ecuador, multinational companies are invited by the government and get full state security from the police and the army,” he said. “The army and police don’t provide protection for the people, they don’t defend the Shuar people. They’ve been bought by the company.
“The authorities are complicit in this crime,” Ankuash continued. “They will never tell us the truth.”
Tendetza “was not just anyone,” Ankuash said. “He was a powerful leader against the company. That’s why they knocked down his house and burnt his farm.”
Other Shuar have been killed in the course of corporate conflicts, including Bosco Wisum (2009) and Freddy Taish (2013). Last week, a group of Ecuadorian activists traveling to the Lima conference were stopped six times by police before finally having their bus confiscated. The activists told reporters that President Correa wants to avoid being embarrassed by their presence at the conference. Correa, they said, has proposed a plan to drill for oil in Yasuni, an Amazon reserve.