On June 30, after 18 days of protests (see “Ecuador’s Indigenous fight for means of life,” July-August 2022, News & Letters, p. 1), the government sat at the negotiating table with the leaders of the Indigenous movement. A representative of the Catholic Church asked the leaders to sign the agreement prepared by the government. One could hear the people’s rejection–both inside and outside the hall. Nevertheless, Leonidas Iza, the leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), told them to maintain their composure and he proceeded to sign.
RELUCTANT SIGNING OF AGREEMENT
The government offered to lower gasoline prices by 15 ¢, drop prices of fertilizers and control other prices, increase the budget for health and education, and prohibit mining in the vulnerable territories. Such prohibition was already encoded in a law but the law was not being enforced. The agreement signed was on the government’s terms. The Indigenous people have given the government 90 days to comply with it.
All through the protests the authorities vilified Iza with accusations of being involved with narco-trafficking and responsible for killing a soldier found dead in the street, though they knew he had been killed by an army bullet. Iza was clear: “They want to kill me.” He was exhausted after eighteen days in the streets. The thousands of participants were exhausted and fearful too, spending 18 days in the city. They slept on the floors of empty buildings with their children and elders. During the day they had to deal with gas bombs directed at them. They were also physically attacked. Six people were killed and approximately 200 wounded. They were criminalized constantly. They had to spend most of their energy defending themselves from accusations.
The government did not apologize for killing and wounding people. The church’s representative did not mention the subject. For more than five hundreds years the institution of the Catholic church has been with the powerful.
WORKERS JOIN WITH THE INDIGENOUS
From my point of view what changed the government’s attitude was that working class people massively joined the Indigenous movement in the streets. That scared the government. It forced them to sit at the negotiation table.
I heard one person say: “This shameless president can not take care of the violence in the cities because of the narco-trafficking. His militia men were found to be part of the narco-trafficking and he has done nothing. Now he dares to accuse Iza. The Indigenous territories are clean of drugs.”
Nevertheless the Indigenous movement consider it a triumph overall.They realized that they are not alone. They have gained the respect and solidarity of the working class and the progressive media around the world. Most importantly, they were able to feel their own power.
–Greta, an Ecuadorian