On July 4, leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) were received by President Lenín Moreno, in this way breaking the seven-year distancing imposed by the previous government led by former President Rafael Correa (2007-2017). However, the position of the current government is not clear in relation to the indigenous proposals, but at the same time, the indigenous contributions towards the creation of the Plurinational State, presented in this gathering, are not clear either.
In the days prior to taking office, on May 24, Moreno announced his desire to come to a closer understanding with one of the most representative social groups in the country, and the one that had been hardest hit by the Correa government: the indigenous movement. “With CONAIE we are the same and we must be together,” said Moreno.
Indigenous leaders seemed apprehensive in accepting the presidential invitation. “We cannot attend a dialog while our brothers are imprisoned or are being prosecuted,” told Latinamerica Press Katy Betancourt, Women’s representative and member of the Government Council of CONAIE.
Jorge Herrera, president of CONAIE, established as a condition to start any dialogue with the Moreno government, the pardon of the indigenous persons sentenced during the Correa government and the amnesty for all those who were prosecuted and criminalized for protesting and demanding their rights during that same period. To formalize their position, CONAIE organized a commission made up of some 300 members who arrived at the National Assembly to present a list of 177 names of people looking for amnesty; they then marched to the Government Palace and presented the names of 20 people subject to pardons. To the lists were attached more than 8,000 signatures of support from citizens from throughout the country.
In the National Assembly, the list was received by its new President José Serrano from the government party, who showed his displeasure and, in a comment of 38 seconds, only said that a commission would be established to analyze case by case. The National Assembly has the faculty to grant amnesty in case where there are persons prosecuted or sentenced for any crime, although only related to political activity, such as the taking of hostages or a death occurring in the framework of a social protest, just to mention the most serious.
Meanwhile, a commission of the national government has started the analysis of the request for pardons, something granted on June to five social leaders who had recently been sentenced to six months prison terms for the crimes of attack and resistance during the indigenous strike against the Correa government in August of 2015.
So the CONAIE then decided to attend, on July 4, to a first meeting with Moreno, and it was with a march of over 2,000 people that they arrived to the Plaza Grande, which had been out of limits for them for the previous seven years. A delegation of 60 leaders entered the palace to hold a dialogue with the president.
At the beginning of the meeting, Moreno announced a new pardon; this time of Shuar leader Tomás Jimpikit, who in last September had been sentenced to a year in prison, also for having participated in the national strike in August 2015. He also announced his decision to reinstate the comodato of the house of the CONAIE — given during the government of former President Rodrigo Borja (1988-92) as an act of recognition of their political existence and as restitution for the neglect in which the Ecuadorian state had kept the indigenous populations — that had been terminated in December 2014 by the Correa government. The house of the CONAIE was defended by the indigenous people until the Correa decided to suspend his decision to evict them.
Moreno also made known his decision to return to the CONAIE the administration of bilingual education and the creation of an indigenous university, although he did not precise the budget that would have been created in order to comply with this offer.
The indigenous proposals
The indigenous leadership, somewhat surprised at the presidential announcements, handed in their proposal titled “Urgent plan for the implementation and construction of the Plurinational and Intercultural State,” which describes five points that must be considered by the national government:
1. Construction of the Plurinational State: stresses the freedom of association, recognition of the community governments, territorial authority, community water management, and the respect to indigenous justice. It also demands to comply with prior consultation and the prohibition of mining in water sources, protected areas and high biodiversity areas.
2. Change in the economic model: in general the request is for the reformulation of the laws of Land, of Water, of Popular and Solidarity Economy, of Mining, and of Seeds; a real change in the productive matrix that allows the abandoning of extractivism.
3. Democracy and Human Rights: demands the reform of the Integral Organic Penal Code (COIP) to dismantle the judicial structure that criminalizes social protest, and the respect of the right to communication, taking to practice the constitutional alignment that establishes that 33.33 percent of the radio and television frequencies must be under the control of the indigenous populations.
4. Planning and decentralization: planning according to the regional diversity of the country and where the community systems of organization are respected and also that they include a plurinational and intercultural perspective.
5. Combat corruption and impunity: prevent that impunity prevails and to sanction those who have committed acts of corruption.
The indigenous proposal is too general and it was also addressed by Moreno in a generic manner, without reaching any agreements with important changes. All the proposals will be dealt by roundtables with different sectors of Ecuadorian society.
Carlos Pérez, president of the Kichwa Confederation of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI), the largest indigenous organization in Ecuador inside CONAIE, showed to be skeptical about the results from the meeting held with Moreno.
“We are giving the government an opportunity to analyze. We want the territories, not spoliation; we want a moratorium to extractivism and this point is not negotiable. I see the dialogue very complex, very difficult, because we will not be satisfied with a little candy,” said Pérez after the dialogue held with Moreno that lasted over three hours.
Alianza PAIS in crisis
Although no significant concessions were made to the indigenous movement, the meeting provoked the rejection of Correa, who wrote on his Twitter account: “Gives premises for 100 years to CONAIE, one more unnecessary slight to my government. Strategy to ‘differentiate’ himself is not only disloyal, it is mediocre.”
The way of expression of Correa shows what is taking place inside the government party, where three groups battling to lead the new government have been detected. On one side, the followers of Correa want to maintain his hyper-presidential model and prevent any criticism to him or his officials, especially those who have been touched by the corruption scandals. They are willing to stop any outreach initiative of Moreno with other political sectors, especially with the indigenous movement.
In an opposite position are those denominated “Leninists,” who support the initiatives of Moreno and announce changes of style, favoring dialogue and bringing back peace in the country. Included in this group are former militants of the Alianza PAIS party who were thrown out by Correa and who now have returned to the government with important positions, as is the case of Gustavo Larrea, founder of the government party and who was ousted by the former President and who has returned as presidential adviser.
Also active is a large group led by Serrano who, from the presidency of the National Assembly, has consolidated himself as a third option and observes from afar the development of the Correa-Moreno confrontation. Serrano has proposed a law of dialogue, but directed from the National Assembly and under its control, a law that could prevail over the dialogue proposal decreed by Moreno.
In conclusion, the first 50 days of the Moreno government have been marked by the calls to dialogue, the corruption claims and the confrontations with Correa, who on July 10 abandoned the country to live in Belgium, the birthplace of his wife. There has not been time to outline the economic guidelines, or has not wanted to outline them due to the complexity of this scenario. Moreno has only said that “they could have been a little more restrained at the moment of leaving the accounts in better shape,” during the presentation of the “National Strategy for the Transparency and Fight against Corruption” on July 11. This is the first reference of what the country is in for in economic matters.