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Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States visited campus Friday to explore commercialization partnerships with UT and Ecuadorian business interests.

Hosted by the University’s IC2 Institute, the event allowed students to meet with Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez.

Suárez said both the U.S. and Ecuador can learn from each other with a stronger partnership.

“I admire the generosity of this citizens here,” Suárez said. “There are more than 1 million Ecuadorians in this country, and as I say, ‘I have a million reasons to get closer and move forward in the relationship.’”

Gregory Pogue, the interim deputy director at the IC2 Institute, said the University provides students the opportunity to specialize in certain areas.

“In the business school, UT has the top accounting program in the U.S., and they have a specialization in energy accounting that is also quite unique, much like the law school,” Pogue said. “This represents another specialization where accounting students learn to manage both partnerships and large company-based accounting principles which differ due to how structures of energy work.”

Pogue said one the institution’s goals is to improve international economic development.

“IC2 has been interacting with Ecuador for 12 years,” Pogue said. “We are looking to establish a broader relationship to promote entrepreneurship and launch engagement of new companies. This really links to a big goal the president has: to stop Ecuador from being just a raw product producer but produce finished goods. We think business engagement is critical, and students are the key.”

Suárez said she hopes international students make the most out of their experiences in Austin.

“Study, work hard and network,” Suárez said. “We need young multicultural global citizens like you will become, and we need many of you back home, so make sure you come back.”

Michael Cepek, an associate cultural anthropology professor at UT San Antonio, discussed the history of the capture of indigenous Cofan people in Ecuador in his on-campus talk “Ungrateful Predators: Capture and the Creation of Cofan Violence,” during a guest lecture Friday.

Cepek said 1,200 Cofan people live along the Colombian border in Sucumbios. According to Cepek, the Cofan people often experience capture, kidnapping by people who plan to earn money from ransom or have political motives.

Cepek has researched and visited the Cofan people for more than 20 years and has seen someone capture one of his Cofan friends.

“On the day I arrived in 2012 to do field work … my main collaborator and informant, Felipe Borman was kidnapped.” Cepek said. “It was shocking. The project … will just disappear because he was the head of it. Everybody was terrified. They think they’re all going to die if they engage in this quasi-violent action for environmental purposes.”

Two weeks after Cepek left the field, Borman returned after escaping capture, Cepek said.

Borman was targeted because his father is a white Cofan leader, and many people associate white skin with money, Cepek said. Borman was also a target because of his position in the park guard, an organization focusing on preserving the environment from outside forces such as oil pollution and gold mining.

Anthropology graduate student Laura Abondano, who attended the lecture, is Colombian and worked in Ecuador while working on a primate project. She said she wanted to see how indigenous communities in Ecuador view the conflict with Colombia.

“In Colombia, any American or foreigner is a target for kidnapping by the [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] or the paramilitaries,” Abondano said. “I believe that the kidnapping of one of their members was simply an economic issue, given that the kidnapped had American parents.”

Cepek said he is mainly interested in the effects on people who are captured and experience violence before escaping.

“Capture is something that can generate violence, the ability to engage others in aggressive force, yet it’s always from the Cofan perspective unwilled, unwanted, unpredictable, uncontrollable and typically will lead to your demise,” Cepek said.

Cepek said that at one point last summer, he became a target for capture when he was at an oil drilling site, so his Cofan colleagues told him immediately he needed to leave.

“It really hit home to me how much the possibility of being captured is on Cofan people’s minds and what that is like,” Cepek said.