Conaie and government report progress in talks; Arepa festival Saturday at the Portal Artesanal; Second attempt to remove judicial council fails
Following complaints that talks between the government and indigenous organizations had stalled, both sides said Monday that progress was being made. Although Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador President Leonidas Iza and Government Minister Francisco Jiménez didn’t offer specifics, they said recent discussions about fuel subsidies, price controls and mining and oil production are showing results.
“I am not ready to offer an appraisal at this time but there has been some positive movement,” Iza said Thursday morning. “Until agreements are signed, nothing is certain.”
On the issue of fuel subsidies, Transportation Minister Darío Herrera said that an agreement between the government indigenous negotiators is “beginning to emerge,” adding that some details will require approval by the National Assembly. “There are things the government can do and we have agreed to move on these immediately. On the other hand, there are issues outside of our control that must go through the legislative process.”
Progress was also reported on both sides regarding absolving bank debt for the poor as the government agreed to increase the level of forgiveness on debts incurred through BanEcuador, which it government controls.
In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture said talks have been “fruitful on matters relating to revising agricultural policy to address the needs of poor farming families.” Conaie has complained that current policy favors corporate agricultural at the expense of small farmers. Agriculture Minister Bernardo Manzano said he agrees that more priority must be given to the “sector of small farms” and new policies should reflect that priority.
In the day’s biggest announcement, the government said it is imposing a temporary moratorium on oil exploration in Amazonian areas near indigenous populations. “The moratorium will be in effect until an informed consultation can be conducted in the communities near the exploration sites,” Energy Minister Xavier Vera said. “We have pledged not to grant new concessions until this process is completed.”
The moratorium affects 16 oil blocks in the southeastern region of the country, Vera said.
The Catholic Episcopal Conference, which is moderating the talks, warned Thursday that new indigenous protests may be imminent, especially on the coast. “Despite some progress in the negotiations, we have been told that the Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones, Indígenas y Negras [Fenocín] is planning a strike in parts of the country,” the Conference said in a statement. “We urge all parties to continue the talks in good faith and work to avoid further disruptions.”
Arepa festival at the Portal Artesanal
Food vendors from Venezuela and Colombia will show off their arepa-making talents on Saturday as part of the International Day of the Arepa. The Cuenca Arepa Festival will be held at the Portal Artesanal Plaza, corner of Calle Simon Bolivar and Av. Huayana Capac. Vendors will serve arepas from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
An arepa is made of ground maize dough, often formed into a pocket that is filled with variety of meats and vegetables. According to gastronomy historians, it has been made and consumed in northern South America, especially in modern-day Venezuela and Colombia, since pre-Columbian times.
Second attempt to remove judicial council fails
A second attempt to conduct an impeachment trial and remove three members of the national Judicial Council failed Thursday night when the chief supporter of the effort was a no-show in the National Assembly. When Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela asked Union of Hope legislator Viviana Veloz to present a motion for a new vote, Veloz could not be found.
On September 1, the first effort to try and remove the council members failed when it received only 87 of the 92 votes necessary.
When Saquicela announced he would delay the reconsideration vote due to Veloz’s absence, opponents of the removal effort attacked Saquicela for being a “stooge” of the Correistas. “Let’s stop playing games with this. The issue is dead and the Correistas have lost,” said Pachakutik party member, Ricardo Vanegas.
Following the Assembly session, Vanegas said the intention of removing the judicial council members was clear. “The Correistas want their so-called truth commission to absolve Rafael [Correa] of his crimes and bring him back to Ecuador. I say we have enough criminals in the country already and don’t need to import more.”