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Ecuador: 1 dead, at least 49 wounded in protest

Ecuador: 1 dead, at least 49 wounded in protest

Police clashed with Amazon Indians protesting proposed water, oil and mining laws Wednesday, leaving one Indian dead and 40 police and nine Indians wounded, Ecuadorean officials said. Indians said two civilians were killed.
The clash took place on the Upano River in Ecuador's southeastern Morona Santiago jungle province where Indian groups have been blocking roads this week.
President Rafael Correa blamed the Indians for the bloodshed and repeated his call for dialogue to resolve Indians' complains about the legislation..
"Tremendously violent groups armed with shotguns and rifles waited for police and received them with gunshots," Correa said in a late news conference. "For this violent act we today must lament the death of a brother Ecuadorean."
Correa said an autopsy showed the Indian who died was shot in the head with a pellet often used by jungle hunters.
Government Minister Gustavo Jalkh said earlier that the wounded police had been hit with pellets. He said police used "progressive force" to clear a highway blockade, but denied they fired guns.
Ecuador's Amazon Indian federation, CONFENAIE, said in a communique that two Shuar Indians were killed and nine wounded by gunshots in the clash. They did not identify the Indians.
Ecuadorean Indians have blocked highways since Monday to protest the laws. The powerful national Indian confederation, CONAIE, called off the protests the same day amid limited turnout across five provinces, but regional Amazon Indian groups continued the blockades.
Correa met with Indian groups earlier Wednesday, though the top Indian confederation did not attend. After eight hours, Indian groups broke off the talks and denounced what they called government repression.
"We declare ourselves in permanent mobilization," Humberto Cholango, a Shuar Indian leader, said at a news conference blaming Correa for Wednesday's violence.
Across the Andean region, Indians are fighting left- and right-wing governments that are pushing ambitious oil and mining-led development plans.
In Peru, a government crackdown at an Amazon highway blockade left at least 23 police and 10 Indians dead in June. The Indians were protesting a packet of pro-investment decrees issued by Peru's conservative government to open their ancestral lands to oil and mining projects.
There also have been sporadic clashes in Chile, where the country's largest Indian tribe is pressing demands for political autonomy by occupying farmland and burning farm machinery.
In Ecuador, CONAIE split with Correa when he refused to grant Indians the right to veto concessions granted to companies exploiting natural resources on their lands under a constitution approved last year.
Indian groups say the proposed laws they are opposing threaten their lands and will privatize water resources. Correa says he has no plans to privatize water resources.
The laws are expected to be passed by the National Assembly, controlled by Correa's party and its allies.
So far, this week's disjointed mobilization has paled in comparison to previous CONAIE protests that helped oust Ecuadorean presidents in 2000 and 2005.