In big surprise, indigenous groups delay decision on a national strike, support impeachment instead

Feb 25, 2023 | 19 comments

In Friday night announcements, Ecuador’s two largest indigenous organizations said they will not mobilize a strike against the government but will allow the impeachment process against President Guillermo Lasso to proceed in the National Assembly.

The decisions by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) and the National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) followed day long meetings in Quito and came as a shock to impeachment advocates in the Assembly and many political experts.

Conaie President Leonidas Iza speaking after Friday’s meeting.

Earlier in the week, the presidents of both Conaie and Fenocin said that a national strike could come within a matter of days or weeks, with Fenocin’s Gary Espinoza claiming his members stood ready to “paralyze the country” beginning March 1.

Observers at both meetings said many Conaie and Fenocin members were uncomfortable calling a national strike when the National Assembly will soon begin an impeachment trial against Lasso. “Everyone’s goal is to remove the president from office so why don’t we let the process that has already started play out,” said Isabel Ramos, a delegate at the Conaie meeting.

Despite the strike reconsideration, Conaie President Leonidas Iza delivered a fiery speech denouncing the government for failing to meet promises following the June 2022 strike, saying that Conaie is ending all contact with the Lasso administration. “We have been lied to again and again and we will take no more,” he said. “Lasso has continued to advance his neoliberal policies that violate our territorial rights and the national economy so the dialog process is over.”

In his comments, Iza insisted that Lasso resign immediately but, if he doesn’t, he said Conaie will follow proceedings in the Assembly to their conclusion. “In the end, we expect the termination of the Lasso presidency,” he said. “For the dignity of our country, for his inability to govern and solve the major problems of Ecuadorians, we want him out of office.”

He added that the “final straw” is Lasso’s connection to public company corruption. “We cannot tolerate his relationship with drug trafficking through his brother-in-law and the other illegal acts that have been revealed since the beginning of the year.”

Iza insisted that Conaie will “take to the streets” if Lasso invokes the so-called Death Cross, abolishing the National Assembly and calling for new elections. “If he does this and assumes dictatorial powers the indigenous people will rise up against him.” HIs position is at odds with that of Correistas in the National Assembly who want Lasso to call the Death Cross.

Although no large-scale protest is planned, Conaie said it is encouraging its members to “turn out in force” to join International Women’s Day marches on March 8.

The Fenocin meeting featured major drama when the governing board fired Espinoza, accusing him of making decisions without consulting the membership. New president Hatari Sarango said Espinoza lacked the authority to claim that Fenocin members were ready to begin protests. He also said Espinoza made decisions for the organization during negotiations with the government that members did not support. “We are a democratic organization, not an oligarchy, and we will make choices based on the interests of all members,” he said.

Conaie delegate Ramos explained the reluctance of members to call a national strike. “This should always be a last resort since strikes cause pain not only to the government but to indigenous and poor people as well,” she said. “Sometimes they are necessary and we support them in that case, but the decision to go on strike must be made very carefully.”

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