Talks between Conaie and the government end Friday but major conflicts remain unresolved
Although negotiations between the government and Ecuador indigenous groups formally end Friday, both sides agree major issues remain to be resolved. “We have made great progress but disagreements will continue beyond the deadline,” says Luis Cabrera, president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference, which has served as moderator for the talks. “We are optimistic that the commitment to dialog, which has been established during the 90 days of these proceedings, will continue and more solutions will be reached.”
Leonidas Iza, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), which has coordinated the indigenous position in negotiations, says he is generally “disappointed” in the progress but is open to continuing the discussions. “We have achieved some of our goals and will keep talking,” he says. “We have established mechanisms and methodologies for follow-up regarding the unresolved problems.”
Government negotiators emphasize the agreements that have been reached and express optimism that talks will continue. “This is a process in which neither side gets everything it wants, which is the nature of negotiation,” says Government Vice Minister Ana Changguín, pointing to agreements on debt relief and support of poor farmers as proof of progress.
The biggest unresolved issue, both sides say, involves the application of fuel subsidies. Although there is agreement that subsides for gasoline and diesel fuel should be targeted to the poor and to agricultural production that involves indigenous and campesino populations, Iza says that the government is “capitulating” to the interests of the wealthy and big business.
“The government agreed to target subsidies to those who need them most but their position has changed,” he says. “Obviously, there are moneyed interests pressuring them and this is why we have not reached agreement.”
Among corporate interests pressuring the government to maintain their subsides, Iza says, are the shrimp and fishing industries, flower growers, cruise lines and tour companies, and oil and mining producers. “These people can afford to pay full price,” he says. “The irony is that the government said it wants to save money by targeting the subsidies but now it wants to maintain them for the wealthy.”
He adds: “Let’s not forget that the issue of fuel subsidies was the central issue of the June mobilization.”