QUITO: Ecuador says it will consider changes to draft mining and water laws. Earlier, several hundred Shuar Indians wearing black war paint andtoting wooden spears had reinforced a highway blockade that riot police failed to break up and which ended in a bloody melee that left one Indian dead and at least 40 police injured.
The Shuar had maintained a traffic blockade of burning tires and wire fencing, and vowed not to lift it until President Rafael Correa comes to negotiate with them personally. Last week's violence recalled a similar clash in June in Peru in which at least 33 people were killed when police broke up a roadblock by Indians protesting development decrees.
Correa has angered Ecuador's indigenous peoples, who account for about 35 per cent of the country's 14.5 million people, by calling them "infantile minorities" for opposing the draft mining and water laws, which they fear will despoil their ancestral lands. Correa denies he plans to privatize water with the law, which would put water resources under state control.
"This government is delinquent, murderous," said Shuar leader Romulo Acachu. Amazon Indian federation president Tito Puenchir appealed to the United Nations and Organization of American States to intervene. He promised international legal action over violations of the Indians' "collective and human rights."
Vice President Lenin Moreno said an accord signed with Indian leaders will bring down Amazon roadblocks that have been up for a week.
But Indian leaders said after six hours of talks that before acting they need to consult with their communities, who account for roughly one in three Ecuadoreans.
Some 100 Indian leaders met with Moreno and President Rafael Correa at the presidential palace in Quito. The indigenous leaders object to mining without their consent.
They also fear the privatization of water, which Correa says won't happen. Indian peoples battling development have been increasingly flexing their muscles up and down the Andes ridge after toppling governments in Ecuador and Bolivia beginning in the 1990s.
The Shuar generally subsist as hunter-gatherers on their ancestral lands and have mounted fierce resistance to oil exploration since it began in Ecuador's Amazon in the early 1970s.