A loud crash pauses communication with Andres Tapialeader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Confenaie). “We are in the middle of a pitched battle. There are several helicopters flying over different buildings and a confrontation throughout this central part of the city,” Tapia details from the streets of Quito, where tens of thousands of indigenous people are marching for the eleventh consecutive day with a cry that unifies them: “Lasso out, out!”.
A mobilization led by women and students tried to break into the National Assembly headquarters on Thursday, but ended up being repressed by the police with tear gas. The demonstrators who arrive in Quito from different parts of the country regain strength at night, housed in two universities, and before noon they disperse into different groups. They carry sticks, handcrafted shields and wiphalas, the multicolored flag of the native Andean peoples. When the combined forces of soldiers and police halt their march, they change course. They challenge the state of emergency in the face of the government, which took the military out of the barracks to try to regain control of the streets.
The indigenous are not alone. They are accompanied by the student militancy, the peasant movement and the workers of different unions. “This struggle that is taking place in our country has as its stage the fundamental confrontation between those who have power and the sectors affected by the neoliberal policies of the government. This fight has been framed since the beginning of Lasso’s presidency, since his policy has meant the growth of poverty and extreme poverty”, he explains to Page 12 Nelson Erazopresident of the Popular Front and national leader of the General Union of Workers of Ecuador (UGTE).
The fuse of the dialogue still does not light
In a dollarized economy where fuels are subsidized, the increase in gasoline increased the cost of freight. The indigenous people allege that their agricultural products only leave losses. But the pressure does not bend a Lasso who considers the claims unfeasible. Harassed and isolated by a recent contagion of covid-19, the president refuses to give in to the conditions that the indigenous people demand to sit down to negotiate. Among them is the repeal of the state of exception that governs six of the 24 provinces and the capitalwith a robust military deployment and nightly curfews.
“All sectors have insisted on calling for dialogue. However, At the moment the national government has indicated that it wants dialogue but represses the people and imprison the social fighters. He tells us that he wants dialogue, but he has just established presidential decrees where the dismissal of public servants is a central element and continues with his policy of selling state companies such as Banco del Pacífico,” warns Erazo. Along the same lines, he manifests Tapia, who states that the president “constantly calls for dialogue but does not give clear signs of trying to find solutions to Conaie’s proposals.”
The leader of the Amazonian indigenous movement speaks to this newspaper from the House of Ecuadorian Culture, a place located in Quito that remained taken by the security forces and that this Thursday was finally opened to the protesters. The possibility of re-entering this place to install a popular assembly that defines the continuity of the plan of struggle was one of the conditions demanded of the government by the president of Conaie and the main promoter of the protests, Leonidas Isa.
The claim is also student
Last Monday, in the midst of the mobilizations, the Ecuadorian government published the Decree 457 which establishes guidelines to “optimize” public spending. Social and student organizations demand that it be repealed because, as they understand, it includes the termination of contracts. Mauricio Chiluisanational president of the Federation of University Students of Ecuador (FEUE), believes that “Lasso’s intention is to weaken the public university” and that this new decree confirms it, since “Several teachers in universities will be dismissed”.
“While the government continues to shield itself with the police and continues to shield itself with the IMF, it represses our comrades from south to north. That is why we want to denounce that public universities are being threatened by the government so as not to be centers of peace and shelter. We have to tell them, as Che Guevara said, the university must be painted as a town, it must be painted as a mulatto and an indigenous“, expresses Chiluisa from Quito.
The memory of 2019
In October 2019, the indigenous movements advanced on Quito so that the government of then President Lenin Moreno desisted from an agreement with the IMF that, in practice, eliminated million-dollar fuel subsidies. The protests were fiercely repressed by the security forces, leaving 11 dead and more than a thousand injured, forcing Moreno to back down.
According to erazothe current scenario is “much higher” than that of 2019. “You have a whole country fighting, you have a whole country raised”, maintains the union leader. On his side, Tapia expresses that the conflict may continue to escalate “to the extent that the president does not have the sensitivity to understand what is happening, continues to minimize the facts or simply puts off the requests that are being made.”