Lasso agrees to mediation but Conaie makes new demands; Protests, some violent, intensify in Quito
President Guillermo Lasso says he is ready to negotiate an end to the nine-day anti-government strike but the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) says it won’t talk until new demands are met.
Lasso accepted the invitation of the non-profit Fundación Esquel for mediation Tuesday afternoon, saying “it’s time to talk.” Hours later, however, Conaie President Leonidas Iza said he would not accept “calls for dialog from organizations with no legitimacy” and blamed the government for “escalating the violence” against protesters in Quito. “Since the first day of mobilization, the government has used a warlike strategy against our protests and this must end before we come to the negotiating table,” he said.
Iza demanded that Lasso suspend the state of emergency declared on Monday and end the use of force against protesters. He also insisted that police vacate Quito’s Casa de la Cultura, where the police command has an operations center, and that the government agree to meet Conaie’s 10 conditions presented at the beginning of the strike.
In its mediation offer, Fundación Esquel director Humberto Salazar said he represents dozens of organizations calling for a peaceful resolution to the strike. “Among those supporting our initiative is the United Nations, the Ecuador Episcopal Conference, the European Union and the Association of Municipalities of Ecuador,” he said. “Our offer is made as part of our foundation’s mission to promote democractic practices.”
Salazar added: “We understand we have a long way to go but accept the fact that Conaie has made sound proposals and that President Lasso has accepted several of them. We believe it is time to sit down and discuss the issues.”
In accepting Esquel’s invitation, Lasso said he agreed to mediation based on the fact that talks will have the objective of bringing the national strike to an end and be divided into separate conversations concerning Conaie’s demands.
According to Esquel and Ana Patricia Muñoz, of the Ecuadorian Confederation of Civil Society Organizations, the mediation will be moderated by national and international experts in dispute resolution. “We take no sides in the negotiations and our only objective is to bring peace to our country,” Muñoz said.
In his 8 p.m. press conference, a defiant Iza demanded that the government first “guaranatee our political right to protest by demilitarizing its response to the mobilization.” In addition to vacating the Casa del la Cultura, which protesters occupied during the October 2019 indigenous strike, he demanded that police and military personnel vacate El Arbolito park, where hundreds of protesters are camping.
Iza claims that police have become increasingly violent since a march of protesters arrived in Quito Monday. “Many of our people have been injured by this brutality, two have died and 79 have been arrested,” he said. “This must stop before we are ready to talk. And, of course, your 10 demands remain on the table.”
Quito Mayor Santiago Guarderas is asking the National Police and Armed Forces to commit more personnel to Quito to protect its citizens and property. “The public services our three million residents depend on are at risk of being paralyzed and damaged by the demonstrations,” he said. “Our roads must be kept open so public transportation can operate and our people can go to work. We must be able to supply our markets and provide emergency law enforcement and health services.”
On Tuesday, Guarderas said protesters committed crimes of vandalism and looting in several locations, including at the Attorney General’s office, the Casa de la Cultura, Central University and at several locations in the historic district.
In Cuenca, there were at least three protest marches in the historic district Tuesday, the largest by public transportation workers and truck drivers in the morning. City officials say protests continue to be peaceful.
Early Tuesday, a convoy of trucks headed to Cuenca was delayed for several hours by roadblocks near Santa Isabel in the Yunguilla Valley. There were minor confrontations between police and protesters but police say no injuries were reported.
In the afternoon, University of Cuenca students burned tires on Av. 12 de Abril and at the entrance to El Vado, temporarily blocking traffic.
The management at Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport reports that airlines are cancelling some flights due to road blockages between the Quito airport and the city. They say some of the cancellations are made at the last minute.
Tuesday night, a crowd of about 5,000 gathered in Parque Calderon to buy Corpus Christi sweets and watch fireworks.