The leaders of Ecuador’s indigenous community announced Sunday night that they are ending the 12-day strike that has paralyzed the country with protests and roadblocks. The decision came after President Lenín Moreno said he was withdrawing his plan to eliminate gasoline and diesel fuel subsidies and that a commission, including indigenous members, would be formed to develop a new economic plan.
The agreement came after three hours of televised negotiations between Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) leadership and the government in which spokespersons for both sides aired their opinions.
“As a result of tonight’s dialogue, a new agreement has been reached that invalidates the government’s Decree 883 [Moreno’s order to eliminate fuel subsidies] and establishes a commission to develop a new economic strategy for the country. The new strategy will be developed jointly by the government and the leadership of the indigenous movement to be moderated by the United Nations and the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic church,” said UN official Arnauld Peral. “Both sides commit themselves to restoring peace and normalcy in Ecuador as quickly as possible.”
Jaime Vargas, president of Conaie, agreed to suspend strike activities, including road blockages and protests, but cautioned that it could take several days before normal routines could be re-established. “We represent hundreds of small communities, each with its own interests and objectives, that we need to communicate with all of them,” he said.
In his statement following the negotiations, Vargas thanked Moreno, the UN and Catholic church for organizing Sunday’s meeting. “I think this format was very valuable,” he said. “We have been asking for a long time to participate in the country’s decision-making processes and I can say from the heart, speaking for all indigenous people, that we have risen in defense of our rights and have finally been heard.”
Still to be resolved are Conaie’s demand that Interior Minister María Paula and Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín resign from the government. “Our position on these two people does not change,” Vargas said. “We believe they are enemies of the indigenous people and that their repressive actions during the strike are indefensible.”
One issue that the government and Conaie agree on is that the supporters of former president Rafael Correa have no place in current and future negotiations. “The Correistas functioned as a terrorist group during the strike, inciting some in our communities to commit violent and criminal acts,” Vargas said. “They promoted open rebellion against the government for selfish reasons — their interest in returning to power — and we reject this absolutely. The Correistas are not friends of the indigenous people of Ecuador.”
One of the leaders of the Correistas, former National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira, entered the Mexican embassy in Quito on Saturday seeking political asylum.
According to one political analyst, the issue of Correista influence in the indigenous community should not be ignored. “There is a very active minority of the indigenous movement that supports Correa and this could slow the reconciliation process,” Gustavo Calderon, a professor at the University of San Francisco said during a television panel discussion following Sunday’s agreement.
“They represent 10 to 15 percent of the indigenous communities in Ecuador and are still capable of causing disruption,” he added. “Their opinions must be heard and considered.”