Inidigenous leaders reject Iza’s call for a ‘null’ presidential vote, throw their support to Yaku Pérez

Jul 19, 2023 | 3 comments

In another sign of the growing division in Ecuador’s indigenous movement, most movement leaders are rejecting the advice of Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) President Leonidas Iza to vote “null” in the presidential cross death election and supporting Yaku Pérez.

Conaie President Leonidas Iza

“This is another sign of Iza attempting to control the movement and, again, he has failed,” said Marlon Santi, coordinator of Pachakutik, the political party of the indigenous movement. “The indigenous people and its leaders in 24 provinces overwhelmingly support the candidacy of Yaku Pérez.”

Santi added that he regrets the growing disagreements within the movement but blames Iza and says Iza is trying to consolidate support ahead of a possible 2025 presidential run. “It is true that we have trouble within our ranks and have much work to do to reestablish solidarity — but to do that, we must put the people ahead of individual personalities,” he said.

The rift between Conaie and Pachakutik is not new. In the 2021 presidential election, Pérez was the Pachakutik candidate while then-Conaie president Jaime Vargas supported the Correista candidate, Andrés Arauz.

Yaku Pérez

Iza and Vargas have both expressed their rejection of Pérez, with Iza saying Pérez “is not sufficiently leftist” to support the interests of indigenous people. Iza identifies himself as an Indo-American communist and has criticized Pérez for “working within the political establishment.”

Supporters of Iza claim that support for Pérez “is not solid” among indigenous voters and say many will follow Iza’s “null” recommendation or will vote for other candidates.

Former Conaie governing board member Andrés Quinde says the rejection of Iza’s call for a null vote in the presidential election is another indication that the Conaie president is out of step with his movement. “He suffered several major defeats since he led the 2022 strike,” says Quinde. “He was voted down by his own board when he attempted to organize another strike earlier this year and now he is rejecting the most popular candidate among indigenous and campesino voters. Politically, he is not doing a very good job if he plans to run for president in the future.”

Quinde, who teaches sociology at Quito’s Central University, says Pérez will be a formidable candidate with the support of indigenous voters. “It is early in the campaign, but I believe Yaku has an excellent chance of making the runoff with the Citizens Revolution candidate [Luisa González]. It is significant that, unlike 2021, Conaie is not supporting the Correista candidate.”

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