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Disagreements between indigenous groups prevent consensus on key issues

Groups representing Ecuador’s indigenous population are at odds on several key issues including the National Assembly’s recently passed tax law and the organization of new protests.

Leonidas Iza, president of the Cotopaxi Indigenous and Peasant Movement.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), which represents hundreds of local organizations, and the Cotopaxi Indigenous and Peasant Movement (MICC) are calling for sanctions against four indigenous assemblymen who supported President Lenin Moreno’s Tax Simplification Law that went into effect January 1.

The indigenous Pachakutik political party, on the other hand, is defending the assemblymen who belong to the party.

Marlon Vargas, a Conaie officer, claims that the votes by Elio Peña, Eddy Peñafiel, Encarnación Duchi and Jaime Olivo is a betrayal of indigenous nationalities. “These men have walked away from the cause we fought for in the October strike and they should be punished,” he said. MICC president Leonidas Iza says he will hold a hearing next week to evaluate the performance of Cotopaxi Province Assemblyman Olivo to determine if he should be reprimanded.

In response to Vargas, Duchi and Olivo said that they have an obligation not only to the indigenous community but also to the country of Ecuador.

Other issues of disagreement between indigenous factions include whether or not to support the decriminalization of abortion in case of rape and penalties for indigenous community leaders who did not participate in the strike.

Marlon Santi, Pachakutik national coordinator, said that Pachakutik was an independent political movement and is not subject to the dictates of Conaie. “We are both fighting for the rights of indigenous people but it does not seem unreasonable for us to have differences of opinion. We do not have to be in lock-step to meet the overall objective,” he said.

Iza said that Conaie’s activities in 2020 will focus on advocating an alternative economic proposal to the one pursed by the national government and defending those arrested during the 2019 strike. He said no decision has been made about organizing future protests. “We must come to agreements before we make those plans,” he said