Jorge Chumapi, President of the Shuar Federation of Zamora-Chinchipe, of which the late José Tendetza was a member, is interviewed by Christian Tym for ImportantCool in the aftermath of Tendetza’s death. This is the English-language transcript of the original interview in Spanish, available at: <http://importantcool.com/publication/jorge-chumapi-interviewed-christian-tym-importantcool/>
CT – Good morning. Am I speaking with Jorge Chumapi?
A very good morning to you. Jorge, this is Christian, the Australia. I am calling from my country.
JC – Hello, oh Christian, what’s new? Where are you?
CT – I’m in my country, in the city of Sydney.
JC – You’re in your country.
CT – Yes, in my country.
JC – Oh, that’s great.
CT – Yeah, it’s good. I have to apologise for not saying goodbye. I had to leave suddenly because of an issue with my visa to stay in Ecuador. I couldn’t stay on any longer than 12 September.
JC – Don’t worry, Christian. I am glad to have known you.
CT – Yes, and it’s a surprise that I’m able to call you on my mobile phone here. Listen, the reason that I had to call you is because I heard, actually it was international news, what happened to José Tendetza from Yanúa.
JC – Yes, yes, they killed him, and now we are demanding an investigation from the Ecuadorian state.
CT – Do have any idea yet as to who killed him?
JC – It is the state’s responsibility. The state and the mining company, Ecuacorriente, bear responsibility. So we are investigating and maintaining a strong position on the rights of the people.
CT – Is the investigation being carried out through you at the FSHZCH?
JC – Yes, through us. We signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ecuadorian state in order to bring a team of high-level investigators to Zamora-Chinchipe.
CT – Yes.
JC – Yes, and they are investigating now.
CT – Well, I wish you luck and I hope to find out what happened as soon as possible. I imagine it must be very difficult, given that he was missing for so many days and…
From what I read in the newspaper, many criticisms are being levelled at the Public Prosecutor’s Office?
JC – [3min 13sec] Yes, their actions are in question. They committed a disgusting act, and really, I don’t know what their interest was…but obviously it raises certain suspicions as to whether the Public Prosecutor’s Office was conspiring, or if they already knew of the murder. Because it seems that they autopsy was merely a charade, the charade of an autopsy [3min49sec], and then they buried him. That’s what happened. And it was left to the family to demand that the body be exhumed, though the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not want to. But we continued demanding this until the body was exhumed. Then it was in the real examination that followed that it became clear that José was tortured and murdered. For this reason, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Zamora-Chinchipe is in question and we have to consider that they were knowing accessories to the murder of José Tendetza.
CT – OK.
JC – Yes. So we are demanding at the highest level of the Ecuadorian state that a committee is formed to clarify this.
CT – As for the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Zamora-Chinchipe, is it part of the national government or the provincial government?
JC – The national government. This is why I have travelled to Quito to raise this matter there, and with the media in Ecuador and other countries, and we have signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior, requesting that it is made clear that we, the Shuar of Zamora-Chinchipe, have been deceived and exploited: many murders, many deaths, many threats against the Shuar, because the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the state and the justice system have not acted in favour of the Shuar people in Zamora-Chinchipe. We want justice to be transparent, that’s what we want.
CT – Uhuh, of course. But is it difficult to see where the investigation is going to go, if the Public Prosecutor’s Office and personnel of Alianza País turn out to be compromised?
JC – Yes. It is not just about the recently deceased [José], because other comrades are being threatened and living in a difficult situation. This is why we want the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be more transparent and independent, and that there are no interventions from the state. We hope that the oversight committee investigates independently and identifies those responsible for the murder. We can’t trust the Public Prosecutor’s Office, so we want the oversight committee to be transparent and very much independent of the Zamora Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ecuadorian state, that it be very much apart and that it finds those responsible for this murder.
CT – Good. I wish you luck.
JC – Yes, this is what we hope. Christian, I thank you and send you my best wishes and I want you to know what we are working hard in this. You understand the reality that people there are living: the people are very poor and it seems that the mining company would be happy to displace them from their land.
CT – Do you believe the construction of the mine will continue on regardless?
JC – [7min 52sec] Well, in light of this death, they [at the mine] are afraid, because one way or another they will have to leave, because Ecuacorriente bears responsibility, they have some 8 lawsuits filed, and there are recordings in which they threatened him and pursued him. There is a clear idea that Ecuacorriente … it is believed that the death was due to the company. If this is proven, or if there is no investigation, this work, this mining project, will have to be halted, and it is preferable that they leave or that another more serious and responsible company comes. We don’t want Ecuacorriente to stay. [8min 39sec] We agree that they should leave. If another company comes, it has to be a company that is serious, responsible and respectful of the people and the territory of the Shuar people, because it is torturing and exploiting the people and we are taking notice. This is not the kind of mining we want. In our country, and in other countries like Australia, the USA or Chile, there are other mining companies that are serious and responsible, that have worked together with the people and haven’t persecuted the people like Ecuacorriente. The company should be a friend of the people, but this company has come and acted as an enemy persecuting the people. I don’t believe that a mining company should act in such a way.
CT – No, no, of course.
JC – I am not against transnational companies. We agree that companies can come and work here. We agree, but not when they come to fight with the people here; only when they are friends with the people and work hand-in-hand.
CT – Yes.
JC – This is what I can tell you. This is my way of thinking. This is my ideology, my position, as I tell you: we are not against foreign investment. We as the nationality and people Shuar support these investments that come from overseas, but they have to come and work as friends and brothers to live together and build a country where we can work together, but never to be fighting like this. There is no reason for it. There is no logic to it, right? Development and change have to be made together.
CT – Thankyou for being very open on such a difficult and politicised topic.
JC – Yes, Christian. I thank you for your solidarity and I hope that you can help our organisation to search for funds to support our people, the people of Yanúa and Churubia who don’t enjoy basic services, we feel abandoned between the state and the company, with nothing arriving for change and the development of the Shuar people.
CT – I thank you for your time and your words, President of the Shuar Federation of Zamora-Chinchipe.
JC – Many thanks to you, Christian. Best wishes and a great hug.
CT – Likewise my friend, and I hope to see you before too long.
JC – [In English] Thankyou, bye-bye.
CT – [In English] Thankyou very much.