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Attorney General investigates Conaie plans to organize an indigenous army

Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office began a preliminary investigation into statements made over the weekend by Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) President Jaime Vargas in which he called for the creation of an army to protect indigenous people.

Conaie President Jaime Vargas issued a clarification Tuesday about comments to create an indigenous army.

On Tuesday, President Lenín Moreno’s private secretary Juan Sebastián Roldán said the president was concerned about Vargas’ statement. “His [Roldán’s] comment sends a message of confrontation and possible illegal activity that complicates the dialog currently underway,” Roldán said.

According to a statement from federal prosecutors, a private indigenous army is illegal under Ecuador criminal code. “The law says that those who promote, direct or participate in armed organizations, commandos, combat groups, terrorist groups or cells intended to subvert public order, or replace Ecuador’s armed forces and national police, or attack them or interfere with their normal performance, will face imprisonment of five to seven years,” it said.

Vargas issued a clarification Tuesday, saying that “protection guards” already exist in the indigenous community and are not intended to challenge national police or the military. “The guard is born of our ancestral right to self-determination and is part of our legal pluralism granted by the constitution. Any enhancement of the guard will maintain the same mission.”

Also on Tuesday, Roldán sent a request to the attorney general to investigate the “kidnappings” of 300 police and military personnel during the indigenous strike from October 3 to 13.

“The actions earlier this month against public agents is very troublesome and needs to be considered for potential illegal activity,” he said.