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Raid on Ecuadorian Activist's Home: Letter to Ascendant Copper

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

27 October, 2006

Gary E. Davis
President and CEO
Ascendant Copper Corporation
10920 West Alameda Avenue, Suite 201
Lakewood, CO 80226
USA
Fax: (303) 297-0538

Dear Mr. Davis:

I am writing to you regarding the latest developments around your Junín project in the Intag area of north-western Ecuador, in particular the raid on the home of DECOIN Executive Director Carlos Zorrilla and that of his employee Roberto Castro. According to the detailed reports that have so far emerged, up to nineteen heavily-armed police raided the Zorrilla and Castro homes at about 6:30 am on October 17, 2006, in an unprovoked and unjustified show of force, intimidating and abusing Mr. Zorrilla’s family and Mr. Castro. Mr. Zorrilla was not there at the time and his whereabouts are unknown.

The police were supposedly there to investigate and to arrest Mr. Zorrilla for an alleged assault and robbery that is supposed to have taken place on July 13, 2006, during a peaceful anti-mining demonstration in Quito.

This case presents several irregularities, among them the following:

  • The woman who filed the charges against Mr. Zorrilla, an American named Leslie Brooke Chaplin, apparently worked for your company. She had been distributing pro-mining pamphlets during the demonstration.
  • Eye-witnesses who were present in the Quito march maintain that the march was peaceful and that no assault, much less robbery, took place, but that in fact Ms. Chaplin was verbally aggressive with the demonstrators. There is video documentation of this which will be presented as part of the criminal defence;
  • Mr. Zorrilla was never informed of the charges against him and so did not have the opportunity to present documentation to show his innocence;
  • Police participating in the October 17 raid travelled in unmarked pickup trucks, one of which has been identified by witnesses as belonging to Ascendant;
  • Ascendant employees were seen with the police the previous day in Santa Rosa and were waiting for them on their return from the Zorrilla house;
  • Some of the police did not wear their ID tags (in fact some were wearing ski masks) and did not hand over a copy of the search warrant. Some of them acted in a very aggressive and intimidating manner;
  • Neither Zorrilla’s wife nor Roberto Castro were even allowed to read the search warrant;
  • The police “found” illicit drugs and a handgun in Zorrilla’s house that according to the inhabitants had not been there prior to the search;
  • The police destroyed various family possessions and apparently took money, a bank card, CD-ROMs, etc.

In the current climate of conflict around the Junín project, a “social licence to operate” is clearly unobtainable. It is clear to us that your only choice as a “socially responsible corporate citizen” would be to respect the wishes of the affected communities and cancel the Junín project, to clarify the nature of your relationship with Leslie Brooke Chaplin, and to make public the details of all your contracts, donations, and financial relationships in Ecuador.

Given your failure to publicly denounce and disassociate yourself from the abuses and manipulation by the local organisation CODEGAM that you created and sponsored – documented in the unresolved complaint filed with the Canadian government by our organisation along with DECOIN and Friends of the Earth Canada in May, 2005 – anything less at this point will inevitably be seen in a very negative light by the public, not just in Ecuador but internationally, and presumably by your own shareholders.

We look forward to your action in this respect.

Sincerely,

Jamie Kneen
Coordinator, Latin America Programme
Communications Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada

Copies to:

  1. Abogado Antonio Andretta Arizaga, Minister of Government and Policing
  2. Dr. Claudio Muecay Arcos, Defensor del Pueblo, Ecuador
  3. Ingeniero Iván Rodríguez, Minister of Energy and Mines, Ecuador
  4. His Excellency Fernando Ribadeneira, Ambassador to Canada
  5. Sister Elsie Monge, Ecumenical Commission on Human Rights (CEDHU), Ecuador
  6. Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
  7. His Excellency Christian Lapointe, Canadian Ambassador to Ecuador
  8. Sasha Angus, British Columbia Securities Commission