Leonidas Iza, the new president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), is wasting no time in presenting his demands to the government. “There should total amnesty for all of the 600 protesters arrested in the 2019 uprising and immediate reinstatement of fuel subsidies,” he said on Saturday. “These issues are non-negotiable.”
Along with outgoing Conaie president Jaime Vargas, Iza was a leader of the October 2019 protests that paralyzed the country for two weeks before former President Lenín Moreno agreed to suspend plans to phase out subsidies for diesel and gasoline. Moreno reinstated most of the plan in May 2020 and President Guillermo says he supports the end of subsidies.
Although there is general support of protester amnesty, some factions within Conaie say that those who committed criminal acts during the protests should not be pardoned. “Although the goals of the protests were honorable, there were those who participated who were thugs and were not honoring the goals of the indigenous movement,” says Jefferson Machuca, former member of the Conaie governance board. “We must be clear we do not condone violence against other people and we do not support those who commit such acts.” Of those arrested during the protests, primarily in Quito, 109 were charged with assault, 80 for vandalism, 40 for sabotage and 30 for kidnapping.
Iza claims Moreno used the “cover of the pandemic” to renege on the terms that ended the October strike. “We insist that the original agreement to return to fuel subsidies be honored by the new government,” he says.
Among other demands on the Conaie agenda, says Iza, are ending and scaling backing mining and oil production, withdrawal from agreements and discussions with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and an end to privatization of government services.
Iza also proposes coordinating political goals in the National Assembly with the indigenous Pachakutik party, which holds 27 seats. In particular, he wants Pachakutik leaders to reconcile with Corresista assembly members and its UNE party. “We must form a leftist coalition and working with UNE is the best way to do this. We must break away from all ties with the neo-liberals and form a truly revolutionary front.”
He added that he rejects the alliance formed between Pachakutik, Lasso and centrist factions of the assembly. “That is an insult to the indigenous people of Ecuador and must end.”