Lasso rejects Conaie threats, encourages ‘peaceful coexistence’; Cotopaxi volcano activity remains high; Investigation begins in murder of Conaie leader

Feb 27, 2023 | 17 comments

President Guillermo Lasso called the decision of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador to end discussions with the government “short-sighted and regrettable” in Saturday social media comments. “Now is the time for rationality and peaceful coexistence with the intention of finding common ground,” he said. “It is not the time for threats.”

Following Friday meetings in Quito, Conaie announced it was suspending all discussions with the government, claiming national leaders had not followed-through on commitments made following the June 2022 indigenous strike. It also called for Lasso’s resignation and said it would call a new national strike if Lasso does not leave office voluntary or through the National Assembly’s impeachment process.

Conaie leader Eduardo Mendúa was murdered Sunday on his farm in Sucumbíos.

Government Minister Henry Cucalón also rejected the Conaie annoucements, claiming the government is executing the agreements reached in negotiations with Conaie and other indigenous groups following the strike. “We have reached 90% compliance with those agreements, many of which have been acknowledged by the indigenous community,” Cucalón said.

He added: “We regret the comments by Conaie leadership and believe the two sides have much more to discuss. The government is not ending the dialog and remains open to talk at any time.”

Cotopaxi activity remains high
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported several explosions at the Cotopaxi volcano Sunday morning and said a plume of gas and ash rose 2.4 kilometers above the volcano summit. “As it has for three months, activity at Cotopaxi maintains in an upward trend,” the institute said in a statement. “The ash from today’s emission is drifting in a southwesterly direction, in a sparsely populated area.”

The National Risk Management office said Friday it has provided training and instruction to several communities west and north of Cotopaxi. “We are concentrating on areas in the path of possible lahars and lava flows, near Latacunga and in the Los Chillos Valley,” the office said in a Tweet. “There is no immediate danger but in consideration of continuing volcano activity we urge the population in the danger zone to prepare precautionary action.”

Conaie leader murdered in Sucumbíos
Interior Minister Juan Zapata said Sunday night that “no effort will be spared” in the investigation into the murder of Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador leader Eduardo Mendúa. Mendúa was shot to death Sunday by hooded gunmen on his farm in Sucumbíos Province.

A member of the Kofán of Sucumbíos nation, Mendúa was the director of International Relations for the nation and had been an activist against oil production in Sucumbíos Province in the Amazon region. In the June 2022 indigenous protests, he had participated in a blockade to prevent the movement of equipment and personnel to a Petroecuador drill site in Sucumbíos.

Zapata said he has dispatched a team of National Police investigators to the crime scene. “Beginning immediately, our investigation will devote full energy and resources to locating those responsible for the murder. This crime will not go unpunished.”

Conaie President Leonidas Iza is blaming the government for Mendúa’s murder. “We hold Petroecuador and the national government directly responsible for the loss of Eduardo Mendúa,” Iza said in a Facebook post. “The indigenous community feels great pain for the murder of compañero Eduardo Mendúa, leader of Conaie. Eduardo was fighting against oil exploitation and contamination in the Amazon.”

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