At dawn today, June 14th, 2022, Leonidas Iza Salazar of Kichwa panzaleo nationality, and current president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) was unjustly detained by the National Police in Ecuador.
The arrest was aggressively undertaken with illegitimate use of force and without proper warrant or due explanation.
The agents seized control of Salazar’s personal vehicle, attacked and isolated his traveling companions when they attempted to halt the unlawful apprehension, and were increasingly hostile with the press during their attempts to record the incident. After the confrontation, Salazar was placed in a vehicle without proper identification, confirming the illegal and erratic nature of the capture.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has since published a video on media channels containing a controversial statement that reveals the arrest was accomplished by Executive order, carried out by military and police agents, and did not contain an arrest warrant nor was a lawfully necessary investigation ordered by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Salazar’s arrest comes after the commencement of a national mobilization coordinated by CONAIE, in which Ecuadorian activists and protestors took to the streets starting on Monday, June 13th, 2022.
This national strike was planned in response to President Lasso’s first State of the Union where he declared an expansion of Ecuador’s investment portfolio through increased infrastructure and oil production, actions that can bring irreversible harm to all 14 Indigenous nationalities and over 23 million acres of Indigenous lands. Much like his previous declarations, Lasso’s statements lack any commitment to the necessary environmental processes and Free, Prior, and Informed consent that is meant to protect Indigenous communities and their territories.
In addition, the group “Las Mujeres de las Nacionalidades Amazónicas, brings forward new demands in this national mobilization such as the immediate repeal of Lasso’s controversial Decrees 95 and 151, that threaten expansion of destructive extractivism throughout all indigenous lands.
While the goal of the mobilization is a peaceful protest, demonstrators have utilized blockades of key roads and oil passageways in order to effectively send a message to the government. By closing these roads, a total of 14 provinces may be isolated. Originally, organizers planned to continue the blockade for up to three days, while protesting indefinitely, until a compromise is reached. If the road blockades do not bring forth adequate governmental response, seizure of the main cities remains a possibility.
As the scope of this movement escalates to a national scale, with a concentrated presence in the provinces where the Indigenous populations live, more and more worker unions and activists are joining the mobilization in rejection of political persecution by the government.
Maria Espinosa, lawyer at Amazon Frontlines, explains, “We condemn the illegal and arbitrary detention of our friend and leader, Leonidas Iza, president of CONAIE. We also reject the criminal practices that President Lasso, together with the security forces, are carrying out against social protestors and the indigenous movement.”
She continues, “In a country where the levels of poverty and violence are increasing, and fewer citizens have access to education and healthcare, and neoliberal and extractive measures are imposed over the lives and territories of indigenous peoples, protesting is legitimate and necessary! The indigenous movement has tried to dialogue with the State and work on concerted measures to fix this serious violation of rights, but Lasso’s response continues to be: criminalize, persecute, and impose extractivist and neoliberal measures by force”.
Today’s violent and illegitimate arrest of Indigenous leader Leónidas Iza Salazar clearly exemplifies the unethical behavior of Ecuador’s governmental authorities and points to the necessity for a revived call to action in support of the equal rights of all Indigenous peoples, minority groups, and workers in the hopes of a better and fairer Ecuador.
For more information, contact:
Kelsey Flitter at +1.215.680.6191; Kelsey@amazonfrontlines.org
Photos, video and spokespeople available upon request.
About Amazon Frontlines
Founded in 2011, Amazon Frontlines is an non-governmental organization that works to support the struggles of indigenous peoples to defend their rights to land, life, and cultural survival in the Amazon Rainforest. Composed of an interdisciplinary team of human rights lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, scientists and activists who live and work throughout Ecuador and Peru, Amazon Frontlines strives to enact change and battle the climate crisis by securing Indigenous Guardianship throughout the upper Amazon.