Acknowledging disagreement among indigenous groups, Conaie’s Iza says no strike is planned

Mar 13, 2023 | 7 comments

Leonidas Iza, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), admitted Friday there is a “significant divergence of opinion” among organizations representing the country’s indigenous and poor population. He also criticized what he calls the “demonization” of the motives of the indigenous movement by the government and popular media.

In radio and newspaper interviews, Iza said there are no immediate plans for a national strike similar to the June 2022 protest. “We must build internal unity before that decision can be made and, at the moment, there is some disagreement about our strategy,” he said.

Conaie President Leonidas Iza

Iza’s comments followed public disagreements among indigenous leaders regarding possible protests following last week’s International Women’s Day activities. Although all groups supported indigenous participation, others opposed a new national strike.

Iza conceded that his own claim that Conaie would mobilize a national strike if Lasso invokes the “death cross,” calling for new elections, was premature. “That is a decision that will be arrived at through consultation with our members, not one I will make alone,” he said.

“Conaie is an organization made up of many smaller organizations and social movements,” Iza added. “All are respected and all are part of the process when we make decisions. Conaie is here to listen and, from that, to make plans based on consensus.”

Iza did not comment directly on the controversies that arose when Conaie and other indigenous organizations met three weeks ago to determine the dates of a new strike. While the Conaie voting board agreed to delay a decision, members of the National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) voted to replace President Gary Espinoza who had earlier said his members would begin a mobilization following Women’s Day with the intention of “paralyzing the country.”

The Fenocin governing council claimed Espinoza acted alone in making the announcement that did not reflect the feelings of members.

On Wednesday, Eustaquio Tuala, president of the Council of Evangelical Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (Feine) criticized those who are advocating a national strike against the government. Although he favors impeachment of President Guillermo Lasso by the National Assembly, he said another strike would create “unnecessary chaos” at a time when elected officials should be restoring order.

“I reject all forms of manipulation and extortion against the state and believe that the president and Assembly must work together to find solutions to Ecuador’s problems,” Tuala said in a radio interview. “We do not need interference from another strike.”

Tuala added that the June 2022 strike hurt indigenous and poor people more than it did the government. “What did we achieve in that mobilization expect financial hardship for our families? Even Conaie leadership admits that.”

Whether or not a strike is called if Lasso invokes the death cross, Iza calls it a “dangerous circumstance” that should be opposed. “Under the rules of the death cross, the president is given dictatorial powers until a new election is held,” Iza says. “He can do almost anything he wants and even if he is defeated it can take months or longer for a new president and Assembly to revoke his actions.”

On the issue of Guillermo Lasso, Iza says the indigenous community is in agreement. “We all want him gone, either through impeachment or resignation, and we look forward to seeing progress in the National Assembly,” Iza says. “He has betrayed us in both his announced plans and his negotiations following the strike.”

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