Carlos Perez Guartambel
Interpreting by Antonia Carcelen-Estrada
During this event Yaku Perez Guartamble asks the question: Is gold more valuable than water? Ecuador’s paramos are fragile ecosystems rich in water. Yet these waters often run above mineral reserves rich in gold. The state pursues mineral extraction in the name of development. Indigenous peoples, in turn, claim rights to self-determination to protect their waters from extraction industries. This happened in Kimsacocha, where Ecuador’s government granted concessions to Canadian mining companies without consulting the local population. After many protests and failed attempts at having their voices heard, local communities took the matter of consultation into their own hands. On Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, the peasant and indigenous communities of Victoria del Portete and Tarqui organized a prior consultation on their own terms. The “community consultation” involved over 1,500 families voting on mining industries in water sources and counted with the presence of national and international observers. Over 90 percent of votes rejected the development of mega-mining in that ecosystem, but the government does not recognize a consultation organized by non-state actors. The water defender and Kañari lawyer Yaku P. Guartambel, now president of the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples in Ecuador (Ecuarunari), tells the story.
As an Indigenous leader, lawyer and scholar, Yaku Perez Guartambel will contribute insights onto sustainable worldviews to face today’s climate crisis. Through his experiences and analysis, he explains the value of indigenous resistance through the notion of rights of nature, first established by the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador and now common across the world. Indigenous approaches to nature are vital in the era of climate change; their claims to self-determination are a valuable tool to promote world peace.
Yaku Perez Guartambel is the director of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, an umbrella organization that articulates indigenous movements in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. He is also president of Ecuarunari, the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples in Ecuador, the country’s largest and oldest Indigenous organization. Perez is a lawyer and has taught at Universidad de Cuenca and Universidad Salesiana. He is the author of six books on issues including parliamentary law, water rights and indigenous justice, and of various articles. His activism focuses on the defense of nature and water, and in the process he has become a major voice opposing governmental policies (he has been repeatedly criminalized by Correa’s government).
This event is sponsored by the Lurcy Fund, Lamont Fund and Department of Political Science at Amherst College. The event is free and open to the public.