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The Latin American Women's Union and allied organizations emphatically denounce the use of physical violence against members of the frente de mujeres defendoras de la Pachamama

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On October 20, 2015, members of the Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama (FMDP, Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders of Pachamama), an organization of rural women defending mother earth and human rights, along with Lina Solano, president of the Latin American Women’s Union (ULAM), were physically and verbally assaulted and arbitrarily detained by dozens of police and government security agents.

The victims include Herlinda Gutama (President of the Pachamama Coalition FMDP), Georgina Gutama (Coordinator of the FMDP), Elsa Urgilés, Nancy Gutama, Etelvina Misacango, and 78-year-old María Mercedes Gutama Tibillín.

The women were assaulted during President Rafael Correa’s visit to the rural community of Molleturo, Cuenca, Ecuador for the inauguration of a public works project as part of the Ecuador Estratégico initiative, which was intended to show his backing of the ‘Río Blanco’ transnational mining project held by Chinese company Junefield. In the central park of Molleturo, the women human rights defenders raised a cloth banner with the slogan ‘Mineria Responsable, Cuento Miserable’ (Mining is responsible for this miserable tale), manifesting their rejection of the mining project, which does not have public support of the communities that would be affected due to the threats it poses to water sources and to their livelihood.

The women denounce that police officers grabbed them violently, dragged, beat, and insulted them. There were elderly women and children in the group as well. Police surrounded the group of women and forcefully seized the banner and another sign with the organization’s logo. The women also report that government security agents demanded that the police arrest the women, and threatened some of them directly saying, “We know who you are, just you wait.”

The women were removed from the park and detained for more than two hours, until the end of the inauguration ceremony.

Fernando Mejía, member of the allied organization Coordinadora por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberanía (CDVS, Coordinator for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty), was beaten by police and government security agents. Fernando was punched in the face and kicked.

The Latin American Women’s Union and allied organizations emphatically denounce the physical and verbal violence against members of the FMDP and allies from the CDVS. We are alerting the international community about the incident and asking for protection for our colleagues, who in 2005 were subjected to judicial persecution for participating in a strike.

Freedom of expression and opinion is a legitimate right.


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