As part of a campaign of persecution, threats, and aggression, waged since 2004 by the Canadian mining company Ascendant Copper Corporation S.A. against leaders and community members opposed to mining activity in the Intag region since 1995, US citizen Leslie Brooke Chaplin initiated a legal action based on false accusations against Carlos Zorrilla, resident of Intag and a member of the environmental organisation DECOIN (Organización para la Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag).
Ms. Chaplin, who infiltrated a demonstration of Intag people against mining that took place July 13, 2006 in the entrance of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and irresponsibly provoked the demonstrators by distributing flyers promoting the mining company, presented an accusation against Mr. Zorrilla for supposed robbery and injuries on July 23, 2006 (ten days after this significant public event).
The interest of delegitimising and causing damage to the leaders of the population of Intag is reflected not only in this new unfounded complaint, but also in the twisted route that some procedures, based on calumny and lies, have had to follow: the designation of a “duty lawyer” so that Mr. Zorrilla would theoretically have been served notice of the charges against him, which in fact he was not aware of until the day of the 17th of October, when at about 6:15 a.m. about 11 police officers violently raided his house, with the goal of supposedly removing “evidence”. To the surprise of Mr. Zorrilla’s wife and son, who were present at the time, one of the police officers displayed a packet saying it was marihuana. At another point another police officer claimed to have found a firearm. New charges are expected based on these objects that had suddenly appeared in the house.
In addition, the police searched the nearby house of Roberto Castro without a warrant.
The demonstration of July 13, 2006, was peaceful from beginning to end, and the demonstrators did not even occupy Juan León Mera Street, but rather the front courtyard of the Ministry of Energy and Mines building itself. When Ms. Chaplin inserted herself in the demonstration in an inopportune and irresponsible way, trying to distribute flyers in support of Ascendant, the demonstrators limited themselves to taking this material from her, as witnessed by those present at the event, including various human rights organisations, police officers, and about 300 Intag residents.
It is outrageous that Ms. Chaplin, in addition to having irresponsibly inserted herself in the Intag demonstration, now appears as the accuser of a leader with a clear history of dedication and sacrifice to the Intag communities, recognised for his merits and ceaseless service to the community, initiator of alternative production projects like the cultivation and processing of organic coffee, which is exported to Japan, Europe, Asia, and the USA, defender of the water reserves and the natural wealth of the Intag cloud forests, and promoter of projects that have created income for village women.
Even more objectionable is the fact that our police and judicial institutions appear to be immersed in these crooked manoeuvres against the residents of the Intag, making themselves into tools of Ascendant Copper Corporation, whose sole interest is to extract the minerals of the Intag and to make profit from the region, even at the cost of life, liberty, well-being, and other fundamental rights of the Intag population and their leaders.
This indictment, although Ascendant is disguising it as “robbery and injuries”, is in essence one more attack against the collective cause of the defence of the Intag.
Quito, 18 October 2006
Sister Elsie Monge,
Ecumenical Commission on Human Rights, CEDHU