Being an environmental activist in Ecuador is dangerous, murderously so, given the recent death of indigenous leader José Isidro Tendetza Antún. This is just the latests in a series of events that showcase how defending the environment can be extremely unsafe.
After receiving an anonymous tip-off, the son of Tendetza Antun was able to recover his father’s remains from an unmarked grave. His body was still tied up and showed signs torture. For Tendetza Antun’s family, there is no doubt that his murder is a consequence of partaking in the grassroots resistance movement.
He was part of an Indigenous led movement opposing the country’s first big open-cast mine, the ‘El Mirador’ copper project. Run by ‘Ecuacorriente’, the project is impacting wildlife and a region that several Indigenous groups call home.
Despite prior threats, Tendetza did not shy away, insisting that he would not be bullied into submission. With conviction he led the anti-oppression movement until his very last day when he disappeared before he was meant to go to an activist meeting.
Before his untimely death, he had intended to travel to Lima to participate in the People’s Climate Summit present the to the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature.
With the world’s eyes on Lima, a lot of focus has been placed on Indigenous rights and what role they have in environmental movements. Tendetza Antun’s absence will hopefully highlight the importance of Indigenous rights and activist safety at COP20.