Conaie leader says indigenous must create an army and continue pressure on the government

Oct 22, 2019 | 20 comments

The president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), Jaime Vargas, says that Ecuador’s indigenous movement should consider forming its own army to protect its rights.

Conaie President Jaime Vargas

“We must continue to pressure the government to achieve our goals,” he said Sunday. “To do this, we must consider creating our own army to provide security for our community to see that our rights are protected.”

Vargas led the successful indigenous protest against the government’s plan to eliminate fuel subsidies that ended October 13 and is currently Conaie’s chief negotiator with the government to develop a new economic plan.

Speaking to an audience in Morona Santiago Province, Vargas also said that the indigenous movement must strengthen its communications with the rest of the country, a possible allusion to the upcoming presidential campaign. “We need to talk not only to our members but to all Ecuadorians, especially the poor, since we share the same interests.”

He said that Conaie must broaden its political focus. “Decree 883 [the government’s order to eliminate fuel subsidies] is a small thing,” he said. “The government has a long history of betraying Ecuador’s poor and we must be vigilant for new decrees that go against the interests of the people.”

Vargas and Azuay Prefect Yaku Perez have been mentioned as possible presidential candidates for the indigenous Pachakutik political party in the 2021 election.

Vargas added that mining will be a new battlefront for Conaie. “As a people, we must turn our attention the destructive transnational mining interests and their relationship with the government. These corporate interests are the enemy of the indigenous people.”

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