Conservation International does NOT Respect Human Rights in Ecuador

Alfredo Luna, an Ecuadorian biologist, was working as part of Conservation International’s research team when his plane crashed in Ecuador on August 3, 1993.

The team was set up for conducting Rapid Assessment Projects (RAPs) in Ecuador, including the cordillera of El Condor in the Amazon region, the Arenillas Reserve and the Cordillera of Chongon y Colonche in the coast. In the accident that occurred in Loma Alta, at the Cordillera de Chongón, four people died including Ted Parker and All Gentry—two of the most renowned biologists in the world. Alfredo was one of the only two survivors.

To protect the scientific team for medical and accidental risks, Conservation International (CI) had an insurance policy that proved to be insufficient for covering all the people involved in the Ecuador research team. After the accident it became known that the policy only covered team members from the United States and did not cover death or disability insurance for Ecuadorean team members.

Alfredo Luna barely survived the accident. He suffered significant vision and hearing loss; brain damage, which caused epilepsy; and progressive degeneration of the hip caused by a necropsy. Since the accident, he has been dependent on costly medicines that he must take for the rest of his life. However, the only cost that was covered by CI’s insurance policy was the emergency treatment in a hospital in the United States.

As a result of Alfredo’s poor health conditions after the accident, he is considered legally disabled and therefore unable to work in his profession. CI provided death insurance to US team members only. Alfredo Luna, an Ecuadorian citizen, was left behind. He did not receive any disability insurance, which would have covered at least some of his periodic medical expenses.
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On May 2, 1994, RUSSEL A. MITTERMEIER, president of Conservation International sent a letter to Alfredo, apologizing for the lack of information and explained that he was doing the best to arrange coverage for Alfredo’s medical situation. Russell said that he is analyzing disability compensation to Alfredo. “We feel highly responsible for caring your recovery…”, and “we consider you an enthusiastic collaborator of the works of Conservation International”, said Mittermeier in his letter regarding Alfredo. However, he did not honor his word, therefore denying any support for medical or disability costs.

On February and August 2001, the Defensoria del Pueblo, the Ecuadorian Ombudsman, ruled twice that Conservation International should honor its obligations to Alfredo Luna by compensating him for the work-related accident that he suffered several years before (see Ombudsman resolutions 001-DDAP-2001 and 019-DNRC-2001), but CI ignored these resolutions.
This case reveals how an NGO like Conservation International, prevailed in issues of economic power and political influence, arrogantly disdain people and organizations from countries they consider subaltern.

The current situation on this issue is that Conservation International, the known US organization, must leave Ecuador because its stubborn attitude on an issue of human rights.

This is the 17th consecutive year that Alfredo Luna is struggling against the arrogant US organization Conservation International in order to defend his rights.
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  See: “Reglamento para la Aprobación de Estatutos, Reformas y Codificaciones, Liquidación y Disoluciones y Registro de Socios y Directivas de las Organizaciones previstas en el Código Civil y en Organizaciones Especiales”. Executive Decree No. 3054, published in Registro Oficial 660 of September 11, 2002, and amended by Executive Decree No. 982 of March 25, 2008, published in Registro Oficial 311 of April 8, 2008.
  See Registro Oficial 343 od December 17, 2010, page 27.

The ombudsman resolution on Conservation International stated that, the act of this organization is a tort, and liable of reparation in favor of Mr. Alfredo Luna. Because there is not a way to efficiently protect his rights by the Ecuadorian Estate, he is therefore utterly defenseless.” This resolution was sent to the Ecuadorian Foreign Office, which has the mandate to control international organizations working in Ecuador.

Article 11.3 of the Ecuadorian Constitution provides that: “the rights and guaranties established in the Constitution and in international instruments on human rights are of direct and immediate application by and before any public officer of the administrative or judicial levels.” Conservation International has failed since 2001 to obey a mandate of the Ecuadorian Ombudsman, regarding human rights.

According to a special statute on nongovernmental organizations, international NGOs working in Ecuador must fulfill national laws and judicial and administrative orders. The Ecuadorian Foreign Office, as the control organization for these NGOs, sent a communication to CI on October 27, 2010, notifying that it must fulfill its legal obligations . In response, CI requested an appointment with the Foreign Office’s Legal Department. This appointment was set up for December 23, 2010 at 10:00 am, however in an act of disrespect CI representatives in Ecuador failed to show up to the meeting.

On December 17, 2010, the Registro Oficial—the Ecuadorian State information instrument, published the “Measures of Binding and Inmediate Comply for the Protection of Human Rights“ (“Medidas de Cumplimiento Obligatorio e Inmediato de Proteccion de Derechos Humanos” ), ordering Conservation International to execute due compensations in favor of Alfredo Luna. Since Conservation International has been in contempt for several years, this resolution cannot be appealed.
Russel Mittermeier President Conservation Internation CI
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