President Guillermo Lasso abruptly ended talks with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities Tuesday afternoon, blasting Conaie leader Leonidas Iza for “promoting his own political agenda” and ignoring the needs of the indigenous people.
Lasso’s decision followed what he described as a “nighttime ambush” of a fuel convoy in Orellana Province that left one soldier dead and 12 others injured. It is the second ambush of a convoy in less than a week, the first one injuring 17 soldiers in northern Pichincha Province.
In a televised address shortly after noon, the president said he and his government cannot sit down to talk with people whose “objective is to hijack the peace” of Ecuadorians. “Last night, a convoy transporting fuel to Shushufindi in Orellana Province, was attacked by 100 violent men,” he said. “As a result, an honorable soldier died and many others were injured.” He said the attackers were armed with rifles and spears.
Following his comments, the president’s press office reposted earlier comments that questioned Iza’s control of the strike and indigenous protesters. “Because he has no legitimacy with the indigenous bases, he has lost control of the movement. He tells strikers to refrain from violence and they ignore him. He tells the people controlling the roadblocks to allow humanitarian convoys to pass but this does not happen and they remain hijacked.”
He cited the detention at a roadblock of a truck bringing medical oxygen to hospitals in Cuenca. “We were hours away from people dying from a lack of oxygen because of the actions of strikers.”
Lasso claimed that his government entered into talks beginning Monday in good faith. “We have given concrete responses to their demands and believed it was possible to engage in a fruitful and sincere dialogue,” he said. “We have seen, however, in the early hours of these discussions that Iza and his friends are simply interested in putting on a show. And then we have last night’s ambush of the convoy.”
Appealing directly to the indigenous population, Lasso said, “You deserve more than an opportunist that has deceived you and the country as a leader. We are ready to meet most of your demands because we recognize that the government has ignored indigenous communities for too many years. I will work for effective solutions.”
He added: “However, I will not work with those who seek to hold the country hostage and those who would attack our security forces and endanger the health and lives of Ecuadorians. I will not continue this dialogue until there is legitimate leadership representing all the indigenous people.”