The rupture of the dialogue between the Government and the main indigenous leader deepens the crisis in Ecuador | International

A group of indigenous people protests against the government's decision to break off the dialogue, this Tuesday in Quito.
A group of indigenous people protests against the government’s decision to break off the dialogue, this Tuesday in Quito.MARTIN BERNETTI (AFP)

They said goodbye around midnight with a new appointment for this Tuesday at nine in the morning. But the Government of Ecuador ended this Tuesday by standing up to the representatives of the indigenous peoples and did not appear for the second approach to end more than two weeks of protests that have sowed chaos in the country. Between the farewell and the empty chair, no more than ten hours passed, although in between there was a violent incident in an Amazonian town. A soldier died, adding to the five demonstrators who have died since the beginning of the protest, and nine more soldiers were injured in the confrontation with a hundred community members in Shushufindi, according to the official report. The Executive then broke off the negotiation.

Almost four hours after the agreed meeting, the president, Guillermo Lasso, came out with a video message addressed to the country to discredit the main interlocutor of the indigenous people, Leonidas Iza. “We are not going to negotiate with those who hold Ecuador hostage,” he denounced. “The country has witnessed all the efforts we have made to establish a fruitful and sincere dialogue,” Lasso defended, recalling that it has given “concrete answers” to the demands of the “indigenous brothers” in recent days.

“But we will not sit down to talk with Leonidas Iza again, who only defends his political interests and not those of his bases,” concluded the president. He described the leader and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) as “opportunist” and having deceived his own. The government’s thesis is that Iza collaborates with the political opposition in the Assembly of the Union for Hope caucus. Legislators still loyal to former President Rafael Correa presented a motion to remove President Lasso that has been under discussion since Saturday and that, due to legislative deadlines, should go to a vote towards the end of the week. But this Tuesday, before the break in dialogue was known, the president of the National Assembly, who is also a mediator between the Government and the indigenous people, announced that the decision would take place this Tuesday, which has little chance of prospering.

Away from the events in Congress, Iza and the other representatives of Ecuador’s indigenous communities were waiting for the Minister of Government, Francisco Jiménez, and the Secretary General of the Presidency, Iván Correa, at the same U-shaped table that they had shared the previous evening. They stayed there waiting even after knowing the presidential decision. His organization, the Conaie posted a message reproaching the government on Twitter accompanied by two photos that, aligned with his reading of what happened, make Lasso responsible for a “warmongering policy” and confirm the “authoritarianism, lack of will and incapacity” of the head of state.

The social crisis in the country, which has been paralyzed for two weeks by the uprising of indigenous protesters, glimpsed on Monday the beginning of the end of the conflict. After several gestures by the Government in response to the requests of the organizers of the protests, such as eliminating the state of exception and softening the climate of tension in the streets of Quito due to the strong police and military contingent, both sides sat down at a table where Representatives of the Church and the other powers of the State were present. The first six hours of conversation were exhausted with no more progress than showing the main points of friction and asking the other party for the willingness and confidence to reach agreements. Although there is conciliation in other requests, the price of fuel is the stone on which the Government and the indigenous representatives stumble. Lasso initially gave in with a reduction of 10 cents per gallon for diesel, extra and ecopaís – gasoline for popular consumption and transportation -, but the demands of Conaie insist that the reduction should be 40 cents.

This discrepancy on the underlying issues, as well as the dialectical tension and clashes in the streets between state forces and protesters, complicate the resolution of a national strike that is depressing family economies and businesses. In the background, as a climax to the climate of national political instability, is the imminent decision of the Assembly on whether or not to decapitate the country’s government.

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