According to President Guillermo Lasso, the 18-day indigenous strike was funded at least in part by drug money. He said he can show a “clear paper trail” linking drug traffickers to the most violent strikers.
Lasso made the claim in an interview Thursday with Argentina news site Infobae. He also claimed there were links between drug money and followers of former President Rafael Correa, who supported the strike and attempted to have Lasso removed from office.
“There were three actors in the strike drama,” the president said. “Correa, radical elements in the protest management and drug traffickers. What we can determine is that at least $15 million was transferred from drug sources to some of the those supporting the strike. It is easy to follow this through laundering outlets and bank accounts.”
Lasso also blamed Correa for orchestrating the impeachment attempt against him in the National Assembly. “The failed effort to disrupt public order and overthrow the government was directed from his hideout in Belgium,” he said. “One reason it failed was because the indigenous people remember the cruel insults Correa threw at them. They knew his support had nothing to do with their cause.”
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities struck back at Lasso’s claims, calling them “absurd accusations.” In a statement, Conaie said that the comments could derail negotiations with the government that begin this week. “Once again, the president proves he does not recognize the struggle of the indigenous and campesino people. The government does not understand the organizational structure of indigenous nations and the concept of solidarity. The president’s comments are an indication of ignorance but also an obstacle for achieving progress in the pending discussions.”
Former government official Pablo Pardo says Lasso’s claim that drug money was received by some strike leaders is backed evidence. “The drug gangs and the Colombian and Mexican cartels have increased their influence in recent years as Ecuador has become a transit site for shipments,” he said. “It is true there are banking and business transactions that indicate money changed hands.” He adds: “Some of the more radical indigenous leaders live near the Colombian border and interact with people in the drug trade.”
According to Pardo, who served as deputy in three ministries in the Correa and Lenin Moreno governments, Correa admitted the growing influence of drug trtaffickers. “In an interview last year with RT television, he said that a substantial amount of ‘dirty money’ is going to political parties, including UNES, as well as to popular causes.”