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Ecuador: Arbitrary detention of José Paucar and threats against Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Reinoso
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that human rights defender, Mr José Salustino Gutama Paucar, was arbitrarily detained on 7 May 2009 before being released later that morning, and Mr Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Mr Wilmar Fernando Mejía Reinoso have been threatened.
José Salustino Gutama Paucar is a member of the Coordinadora Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberanía (National Co-ordinating Committee for the Defence of Life and Sovereignty – NCCDLS). The NCCDLS is a committee that defends environmental rights which are being threatened as a result of the government's plans to develop large-scale mining in rural areas. The NCCDLS was set up with the aim of bringing together peasant and indigenous communities to facilitate collective action to defend the environment. Vicente Zhunio Samaniego is a community leader and President of the Asociación Campesina de Limón Indanza - ACLI (Peasants' Association of Limón Indanza), which is a member organisation of the NCCDLS. Wilmar Fernando Mejía Reinoso is the President of the Coordinadora Campesina Popular de Morona Santiago - CCP (Popular Coordinating Committee of the Peasant's of Morona Santiago). Front Line previously issued two urgent appeals on 7 January 2009 and on 28 January 2009 following two arbitrary detentions of Vicente Zhunio Samaniego on 5 January and on 20 January 2009.
On 9 May 2009, members of the ACLI and CCP joined a demonstration in San Miguel de Conchay, in the canton of Limón, in the province of Morona Santiago, to protest against a meeting that had been convened by Lieutenant Hernán Samaniego for local communities to meet with representatives of the mining company Corriente Resources-ECUACORRIENTE-EXSA. The protesters were gathering outside the meeting venue when Lieutenant Samaniego attempted to block the passage of Wilmar Fernando Mejía Reinoso and began shouting at him to leave the area and that he had no reason to be in the town at the time of the meeting. He then began shouting at the protesters, before pointing at Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and saying “Eres hombre muerto” (you are a dead man).
On 7 May 2009, at approximately 8:40 am, José Salustino Gutama Paucar was arbitrarily detained by police officials as he travelled by bus from Molleturo to Cuenca. The detention took place in the region of Santa María en Sayausí, where the Community Police Unit (CPU) is located. The officers did not show any arrest warrant and did not answer the human rights defender's repeated question as to why he was being detained. José Salustino Gutama Paucar was transferred by the CPU to the Judicial Police station in Cuenca, and then subsequently to the office of Commander Plácido Enríquez, who also refused to answer any questions relating to the detention. He was released at approximately 10:30 am.
Human rights defenders in Ecuador believe that the arbitrary detention of José Salustino Gutama Paucar, and the threats against Wilmar Fernando Mejía Reinoso and Vicente Zhunio Samaniego are a direct result of their work as human rights defenders, specifically their work in highlighting the social and environmental impacts of large-scale mining in Ecuador.