José Serrano Salgado, a member of the Ecuadorian non-governmental organization Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES), Economic and Social Rights Centre, was reportedly threatened with death on 25 April. José Serrano Salgado was travelling in his car on the North-South Road (Vía Norte-Sur), in the capital Quito, Pichincha province, when he was forced to stop by three unknown individuals in a green vehicle with no number plates. At least one of the three men was carrying a revolver. When José Serrano Salgado got out of his car, one of the men put a revolver to his arm while the others said: “hijo de puta, ya para esto, ya no puedes continuar con esto, oiste, ya no puedes continuar” (“you have to stop this, you son of a bitch, you cannot continue with this anymore, you hear me, you can not continue with this”). José Serrano Salgado was then forced into the driver’s seat of his car while the three assailants sat on the passenger and back seats. . While the man in the passenger’s seat pointed a revolver at José Serrano Salgado, another on the back seat told him to remove his shirt and shoes and to give them his watch and wallet. Thinking that it was a robbery, José Serrano told the men to take the car, but they said that they were not interested, and asked him to give them his mobile phone. When José Serrano told them and insisted that his mobile phone was at home, one of the men on the back seat replied: “cuidado, si haces algo te matamos, pero ya para hijo de puta, ya paren. ¿Para qué vas al Puyo carbon? ¿Para qué?” (“be careful, if you try anything we will kill you, stop already you son of a bitch, stop it. Bastard, why are you going to Puyo [the capital of Pastaza province where the territory of the Sarayaku indigenous community is]? What for?“). Before leaving, the assailants told José Serrano Salgado “hijo de puta, esta vez te decimos así, pero la próxima te matamos, oyes carbon, les matamos” (“son of a bitch, this time we tell you, but the next we will kill you, you hear me bastard, we will kill you”). They then took his car keys and told him to wait for 20 minutes before leaving or he would be killed. José Serrano Salgado and members of CDES filed a complaint on 24 April.
The threats are believed to be linked to the organization’s support for the Sarayaku indigenous community in Pastaza province, which opposes plans by a foreign oil company to drill in their territory. The Sarayaku indigenous community of Pastaza province have been the object of a campaign of intimidation and defamation, apparently because they oppose the concession given to oil companies to start drilling in their territory.
In May and again in December 2003, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS), ordered Ecuador to protect the Sarayaku community, because some of their leaders had received death threats; and some of their members were physically and verbally assaulted during a demonstration in December 2003. However, in January 2004 Ecuador’s Minister of Energy and Mines reportedly responded to the IACHR’s precautionary measures by stating that “the OAS does not give orders here” (“la OEA no manda aquí”) and said that the Ecuadorian state would respect the agreement with the CGC and continue its plans to allow oil exploitation in the area. Local human rights organizations that support the Sarayaku community have also reportedly received death threats in the last three months.
Letter by Monique Pongracic-Speier sent on April 27, 2004