Ecuador’s United Nations representative pushed back Thursday on government claims that the violence in recent indigenous protests was the result of organized efforts by “outside agitators” working with other countries.
According to Arnaud Peral, who is moderating talks between the government and the indigenous community, the “breeding ground” for the violence that accompanied the protests was the result of long-standing conflicts between the government, Ecuador’s elite and the country’s poor.
“I believe that the breeding ground that allowed this strong wave of reactions, including the violence, was already present in Ecuadorian society,” Peral said, adding that the signs of “dissatisfaction” between sectors of the population originated in social inequities and the lack of opportunities.
“There had been warnings of trouble and there was a great deal social tension that had been building,” he said.
Peral said that the same tension exists throughout Latin America, citing recent protests in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.
Following the protests, the government claimed that “organized outside sources” played a major role in the violence, pointing the finger specifically at the government of Venezuela and supporters of former president Rafael Correa.
Peral admitted that the extent of the anger and violence surprised him. “We have had our antennas up and were aware of the problems because of discussions we have had with various sectors of the population but we didn’t foresee the high level of frustration that came out in the protests,” he said. “Obviously, we have much work to do.”
He said the discontent of the poor and indigenous people of Ecuador goes far beyond an increase in gasoline and diesel prices that the government rescinded as part of the agreement to end the protests on October 13. “In our discussions with the government and indigenous leaders we must delve deep into the root causes of the discontent.”