Conaie – government resume talks following new strike threat; Cajas highway work will finish in Oct.; Legalization of Venezuelan refugees resumes

Sep 2, 2022 | 22 comments

Following complaints by indigenous organizations of lack of progress in negotiations with the government, the two sides agreed Thursday to continue talks “in good faith.” The Episcopal Council of the Catholic Church said Thursday that “several issues” have been resolved that will allow talks to resume.

On Tuesday, Conaie President Leondis Iza threatened to resume the national indigenous strike if progress is not made in talks with the government.

Earlier in the week, Conaie President Leonidas Iza said that indigenous protesters would resume their national strike if their demands were not met by September 9. “There is enormous concern among our people that little progress has been made during the 47 days of talks,” he said. “If we do not see immediate movement from the government to address our concerns we will not hesitate to resume the strike. We refuse to be ignored and we refuse to be disrespected in this process.”

He said that lack of concrete action to provide targeted fuel subsidies and the government’s refusal to support full debt relief for the poor were major obstacles. “There has also been no resolve from the other side to control prices of essential products,” Iza said.

On Wednesday, Government Minister Francisco Jiménez said the government refused to “take orders” from Iza and Conaie. “I remind them we are not here to be told how we will respond. We are here to negotiate and that is what we are prepared to do.”

Jiménez agreed that few final agreements have been reached during the first half of the 90-day negotiation period but said “substantial progress’ has been made. “It is the nature of negotiations that the groundwork for progress must be laid before final decisions are made. We are progressing and I expect the progress to continue.”

He rejected Iza’s threat to resume the strike. “Returning the country to a state of chaos will solve nothing. We must talk, not threaten each other.”

In addition to the Episcopal Council, the United Nations Special Rapporteur office said it was pleased that talks will continue. The Rapporteur said it would host meetings between indigenous groups and the government to resolve procedural conflicts.

Cajas highway work will finish in October
The Ministry of Transportation says the construction of the 2.5-kilometer bypass near Molleturo is 60% complete and that the highway connecting Cuenca and Guayaquil will be “completely enabled” for Cuenca’s independence holidays that begin October 31.

Construction of the by-pass follows years of temporary road closures due to landslides that sometimes block the highway for days as debris is cleared. In addition to disrupting travel between Cuenca and Guayaquil, highway closures have proved an ongoing hardship for the 10,000 families living in the Cajas mountains.

The highway is currently open but only during daylight hours.

Legalization of Venezuelan refugees resumes
The process to renew legal residency for an estimated 324,000 Venezuelan refugees living in Ecuador began on Thursday. The renewals grant migrants legal residency for a period of two years under a special program administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry says that more than 100,000 Venezuelans have been granted permanent legal residency since 2017.

“We understand that the migratory status of many Venezuelans is temporary and we provide them legal status until they are able to return to their country,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Under the program created by the United Nation, the temporary legal status allows them to work and receive all the benefit of Ecuadorians while they are in the country.”

The UN Refugee Commission estimates there are 500,000 Venezuelans living in Ecuador, the third largest number, after Colombia and Peru, living outside of Venezuela.


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