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Indigenous leaders say human rights report backs their claims of government violence during the October strike, plan legal action

The government used excessive force that resulted in “unnecessary deaths and injuries” to contain October protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The findings of the long-awaited IACHR report were applauded by leaders of Ecuador’s indigenous movements while they were attacked as “biased and unreasonable” by the government.

Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza praises the finding of the human rights report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (El Comercio)

“Our cause has been proven correct in these findings,” said Jaime Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie). “We have maintained from the beginning that the government was the aggressor during the strike and used violence against the people. Now, we will proceed with legal actions to seek justice for the protesters who were murdered and injured during the conflict. We are grateful to IACHR for their work and research that confirm our allegations.”

Ecuador Interior Minister María Paula Romo, on the other hand, called the IACHR “short-sighted and incomplete.” At a press conference and in a radio interview, she maintained that the report did not acknowledge criminal acts committed during the strike. “Where is it referenced that protesters kidnapped soldiers and police? Where is it mentioned that journalists were attacked and injured and that public property was vandalized and destroyed?” she asked. “We are very disappointed by the glaring omissions in the report and reject its conclusions.”

Among IACHR recommendations are that the government provide reparations to victims, reaffirm the right to protest, improve its process of dialogue with various constituencies in making economic decisions and investigate the 11 deaths that occurred during the protests. The report also demanded that police and military personnel undergo “sensitivity training” to improve their performance during times of protests.

In its conclusion, the IACHR criticized the government for “poor planning” before it announced the elimination of fuel subsidies in early October, the issue that incited the protests.

At the Conaie press conference, Leonidas Iza, leader of the Cotopaxi Indigenous Movement, dismissed government claims about criminal acts committed during the strike. “It was the violent force used by the police and military that generated these acts,” he said. “It is the government that must be held accountable for the damage it calls criminal. Now that we have been proven right, we intend to demand justice from a government that was clearly out of control.”

Romo said she and her staff will respond to the IACHR report.