QUITO, Ecuador – An Ecuadorean indigenous leader was slain just days before he planned to travel to U.N. climate talks in Peru to protest a Chinese-owned open-pit copper mine being developed on his community's ancestral lands, a tribal head said Monday.
Shuar Federation president Jose Chumapi told The Associated Press that Jose Tendetza's decomposed body was found in a river last week, a rope tied around the waist.
He said the cause of death was difficult to determine and Tendetza's body was buried after the Dec. 2 discovery. The death didn't come to light until now because the southern region bordering Peru where the death occurred is so remote.
Chumapi said Tendetza stridently opposed the Condor Mirador mine planned for property controlled by the company Ecuacorriente. The project has not yet been developed.
The federation president added that Tendetza had hoped to take his protest to the U.N. climate talks now underway in Lima, Peru. The high level phase of the gathering begins Tuesday.
There were no earlier reports of Tendetza receiving death threats or otherwise being mistreated.
Chumapi said Ecuacorriente had filed three complaints against Tendetza accusing him of trespassing. The Shuar insist the mine property is on ancestral lands where they have lived "for more than a thousand years" even though they don't hold formal property titles, Chumapi said.
The former head of the Shuar group, Domingo Ankuash, told the AP that "the Ecuadorean government, without consulting anyone, gave our land to Ecuacorriente. They put up wire fences and everything inside them was destroyed: homes, and crops of banana, cassava and corn."
Ecuadorean indigenous communities are increasingly at odds with President Rafael Correa's government over state-supported mining projects that they say will contaminate Amazon rainforest and their water.