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Tension builds between indigenous and the government as Conaie rejects economic reforms

There has been no progress in efforts to reconcile the positions of Ecuador’s indigenous movement and the government since the two sides agreed to talk October 13, ending 10 days of nationwide protests.

Jaime Vargas

“There have been no meetings since October 24,” according to Jaime Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie). “The government is now engaged in persecution and repression against our people and as long as this continues there can be no talks. If the situation does not change we may be forced to return to the streets.”

Vargas and other indigenous leaders are angered by the arrests of hundreds of protesters as well as an investigation into comments made by Vargas suggesting that the indigenous would form their own army. “Instead of reaching out to us, the government is treating us as criminals,” he says.

Indigenous leaders are also upset about the package of economic reforms that the government submitted to the National Assembly and that is currently being debated. “This is even worse than the presidential actions [the suspension of fuel subsidies] that created the national strike in October,” Vargas says.

Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza adds that the government’s economic reforms are a “capitulation to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and will punish Ecuador’s indigenous and poor.” He adds that the government is ignoring the economic proposals submitted by Conaie two weeks ago. “This is in the hands of the executive and the National Assembly president but it is not being discussed.”

Tensions have also risen over a verbal exchange between Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner and Vargas, in which Sonnenholzner rejected Vargas’ suggestion that he needed permission to visit indigenous communities. “As I understand it, an Ecuadorian does not need a visa to travel in his own country,” the vice president said.

Vargas says that the indigenous movement is considering its next move given the “worsening climate of non-cooperation.”

Among those considerations, he says, is preparation for the February 2021 elections. “We are building a coalition of support among the indigenous, peasant, transporter, mestizo and Afro communities and believe we will be a powerful force at the polls.”

Vargas says it is too early to say whether the movement will present a presidential candidate or whether the movement will be organized under the indigenous Pachakutik party banner. In recent elections, Pachakutik has had limited success, rarely polling more than two to three percent in local and national elections.

5 thoughts on “Tension builds between indigenous and the government as Conaie rejects economic reforms

  1. It’s 2019! The world is watching Ecuador. Both sides made amateurish mistakes that they likely regret. The President underestimated the impact of his legislation and completely botched the implementation of his economic program. CONAIE failed to apply the brakes to their protest when needed, resulting in the vandalism tens of millions of dollars worth of personal and business property in Ecuador, plus the burning down of a government building. Mr. Vargas says above “Instead of reaching out to us, the government is treating us as criminals”. Wholesale vandalism and destruction of private and public property is criminal. Those who do this are criminals as a matter of fact, not opinion. Both sides made plenty of mistakes the must own the consequences.

    It will be interesting to see if President Moreno holds his ground on the submission of his economic growth law by decree, the debate of which expires this Sunday. The law is grotesquely large and sprawling and its most likely going to be a implementation brawl, but I hope the law is passed and survives any litigation, such as its constitutionality.

    I also hope that the government implements a transfer program to make the lowest economic quintile (aka “the poor and disadvantaged”) whole, then eliminate fuel subsidies.

    Ecuador must stop this economic hemorrhaging and more towards shrinking the deficit SOON.

    Just my opinion.

    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s basic economics. One cannot spend more than what one earns. This government is ravaged by debt incurred during the Correa administration. He did much good for the poor of Ecuador, but now it’s time to pay the piper. Had oil been selling for $100 per barrel, as Correa was hoping for, actually came to fruition, Ecuador wouldn’t be drowning in debit and everyone would be happy. But that’s not the reality of today’s economic crisis. In a socialist society, people get used to give hand outs. Just look at Greece which was near colapse due to its decades long socialist policies. Today Greece is on the road to recovery, but only because of drastic government cutbacks which resulted in an unemployment rate of 25%. Ecuador must act now to avoid the same financial crisis, which will be far more devastating to the poor than what the government is proposing.

  2. The tribe’s will have to become more united and fight a lot harder to ever get fair treatment. They need to get well armed and have their own army.

  3. EC government isn’t going to act responsibly. They never have in the past and they won’t going forward. They will continue milking, pointing fingers and kicking the can down the road until the economy completely collapses.

  4. It’s shocking that people who destroy property and injure people i.e. criminals are being treated like criminals and complaining about it. A proper investigation and adjudication are definitely in order. Its also proper to investigate and probably jail Vargas so that they can work with a more responsible leader, instead of an idiot.

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