Indigenous rift pits Azuay Prefect Yaku Pérez against Conaie October protest leaders

Aug 8, 2020 | 7 comments

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) is demanding that the political party Pachakutik reconsder its nomination of Azuay Prefect Yaku Pérez to be its presidential candidate. Pachakutik is the political arm of dozens of indigenous groups in Ecuador, including Conaie.

Yaku Pérez

According to Pachakutik insiders, Conaie wants the presidential and vice presidential nominations to go to Jaime Vargas and Leonidas Iza, leaders of the October 2019 national protests. A Pachakutik political council member, who asked to remain anonymous, claims that Conaie does not consider Pérez “sufficiently radical” to represent the interests of indigenous people.

“Many of us disagree with this assessment and support Yaku’s approach of combining cultural and political interests and appreciate his ability to communicate effectively with people across the political spectrum.”

Conaie wants Pachakutik’s presidential and National Assembly candidates to be decided by a consensus of all indigenous organizations and not by the party’s political council. “We insist on active participation, with voice and vote, of the entire organizational structure of all indigenous movements, guaranteeing a transparent electoral process,” Conaie said in a statement after a meeting Friday afternoon. “The Pachakutik plurinational unity movement should speak with one voice, representing revolutionary interests of all fellow militants.”

Conaie did not say how such a broad-based nomination consensus should be reached.

Jaime Vargas

On July 30, the Pachakutik council recommended Pérez as the indigenous presidential candidate, which will be decided by the party on August 22. The decision was adopted in a 26 to 6 vote, with one abstention. Pérez beat out Iza, from the Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi, and Salvador Quishpe, representative of the Zamora Chinchipe indigenous organzation.

According to University of San Francisco-Quito history professor Juan Carlos Quinde, the dispute between Conaie and Pachakutik leadership illustrates a long-running division within the ranks of indigenous leadership. “The more radical elements favors the approach that Vargas and Iza took during the October protests, which believes that open conflict and civil disobedience is the path to change,” Quinde says. “The moderates believe that the protests caused more harm than good to indigenous interests and that Pérez’s ability to work within the political system will bring better results.”

Quinde points out the Pérez is also a radical who participated in the protests and is promoting anti-mining referendums opposed by the government. “Much of the difference between Pérez and Vargas is one of style, a willingness to compromise versus one based on demands backed up by threats of national strikes.”

In recent weeks, both Pérez and Vargas have said they are opposed to joining ranks with the followers of former president Rafael Correa to form a unified leftist movement, Quinde says.

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