Native Ecuadorans protest Amazon mining

March is organised by powerful umbrella group that represents natives from around Ecuador.

Hundreds of native Ecuadorans have begun a cross-country march to protest policies by President Rafael Correa they say will result in more mining in the Amazon region and threaten the environment and their way of life.

Thursday’s protests were prompted partly by a recent agreement between Ecuador and China for industrial copper mining in the Amazon’s Ecuacorriente Zamora-Chinchipe region.

The march, organised by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), a powerful umbrella group that represents natives from around the country, began in the Zamora-Chinchipe town of El Pangui, 700km south of Quito, the capital.

“People are very motivated, there will always be more people in each village,” Zamora-Chinchipe, Salvador Quishpe’s governor, told the AFP news agency.

The natives plan to march over the next weeks through several provinces on their way to Quito, gathering protesters along the way.

They plan to reach Quito on March 22. Previous protests by CONAIE, which claims to represent a third of Ecuador’s population of more than 14 million, have already toppled two presidents, Abdala Bucaram in 1997 and Jamil Mahuad in 2000.

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