QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The lands of the Shuar Indians in the Amazon are rich in wildlife such as tapirs, toucans and red howler monkeys. They also hold treasures more coveted by outsiders: rich deposits of copper and other minerals that the government is eager to cash in on.
Projects to build open pit mines that would rip into their forest-covered hills have spawned a protest movement that sets leaders of the ethnic group against the country's popular president, Rafael Correa, who says development is essential to the future of this nation's 14 million people.
Hundreds of indigenous people have been marching for nearly two weeks to protest planned mining projects, and on Wednesday the demonstrators were nearing Ecuador's capital of Quito.
Earlier protests, including road blockades, have led to conflicts with police and with government prosecutors who have been quick to issue criminal charges.