By Maria Paz Salas
Ecuador’s defense minister on Tuesday demanded the “immediate release” and in “perfect conditions” of 11 soldiers held hostage by an indigenous group.
The soldiers were passing though the group’s area when they were captured.
“The National Government recognizes the ancestral territories, but also recognizes the human rights of all Ecuadorians,” Ricardo Patiño said in a statement.
Members of the Kichwa group from Sarayaku in the Amazonian province of Pastaza in the country’s northeast seized the soldiers last weekend as they traveled in a canoe along the Bobonaza River.
“This is unconstitutional, it is an arbitrary detention,” President Rafael Correa told reporters Monday. “This is kidnapping because everyone who stays inside the territory without doing anything illegal respects free mobility.”
Kichwa posted a message on social media that explained their reason for taking the soldiers. “For security reasons we have been obligated to isolate them to consult them about their purpose and where they were headed. Sarayaku guarantees their Human Rights,” it said on Facebook.
The group added that the soldiers, who were not on duty at the time, had not asked permission from Indian authorities to navigate the area.
Kichwa also posted images of the soldiers sitting on benches inside a local camp.
Last week, the government declared a state of emergency after the Shuar indigenous group in the southeast province of Morona Santiago attacked a Chinese mining site.
Correa responded by sending hundreds of security forces to quell the clash that killed one policeman and injured several others.
The move was to show solidarity with the native group, according to Correa.