Government and indigenous talks end without fuel subsidy agreement; New strike threatened but is unlikely as it would jeopardize agreements
Negotiations between the government and indigenous groups ended Thursday without an agreement on the biggest issue of the 90-day talks, fuel subsidies. Both sides agree progress was made during the negotiations, the government expressing more optimism about the results than indigenous leaders.
According to most negotiators, the two sides will meet again in the coming weeks and attempt to resolve the remaining differences, including the fuel subsidy impasse. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) and the National Confederation of Peasants, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) plan to consult with their membership before deciding whether to resume talks.
“Very serious problems remain to be solved,” says Fenocin Vice President Luis Mullo. “We are far from having full agreement and need to review the situation with our leadership to decide the next move. We do not dismiss the possibility of a new mobilization but we believe continuing the dialog is in everyone’s best interest.”
On the subject of the fuel subsidy, Mullor and Conaie President Leonidas Iza claim the government is not negotiating in good faith. The sticking point, Conaie and the government agree, is the government’s insistence that the subsidy be maintained for the shrimp industry and the tuna fishing fleet. “Why do they want to give away money to big corporate interests?” asks Iza. “These are not poor people who need help.”
The government responds that the support is necessary to keep shrimpers and fishing interests competitive in the international market. “This represents a very small percentage of the subsidy so we don’t understand why it is a point of contention,” says Darío Herrera, Minister of Transport and Public Works. “We have accommodated them on almost all of their points.”
Former presidential advisor and political analyst Daniel Crespo agrees with Mullor that the talks will resume. “Indigenous leaders will threaten a new strike but they understand they risk losing everything they’ve gained in the negotiations,” he says. “Public sentiment is very strongly against a new mobilization. People, including many of the indigenous, are angry at the economic damage caused by the June strike.”
Mullor disputes the government’s claim that 128 agreements were reached during the talks. “I have no idea where they get that number. Yes, some agreements have been reached but it’s only a fraction of what they say. Many more must be made before we can say the process was successful.”