The president of Ecuador’s largest indigenous organization, Jaime Vargas, was detained and then sent home from Guatemala Saturday on charges that he violated Guatemala immigration laws and interfered in the country’s internal affairs.
Vargas, who heads the National Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador (Conaie), claimed he was being persecuted and that his expulsion from Guatemala was a violation of international law. “I am not a normal citizen of Ecuador,” he said. “I am the second president of Ecuador, leader of the indigenous peoples, and should be treated with diplomatic consideration.”
Vargas, who led a nationwide October strike in Ecuador, was in Guatemala to attend at the Waqib Kej Convergencia, a meeting of indigenous leaders from Honduras, Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala and Argentina. “This was a meeting of the sovereign indigenous nations of Latin America and I was attending as a the delegate from Ecuador,” Vargas said.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said that Vargas was deported because of pending legal issues that he and Conaie face in Ecuador and because he was acting as an “outside agitator” in Guatemala. “He was in violation of our immigration laws and the prohibition of foreigners interfering in our affairs,” Giammattei said.
Vargas claims he was treated “with violence and intimidation” by Guatemalan police and said he would file a civil rights violation complaints with the United Nations.