A single day passed from the march of indigenous people wielding spears through the center of Quito on Wednesday until they symbolically buried the weapons with a peace deed. The Government and the leaders of the organizations sealed a televised agreement this Thursday, which put an end to 18 days of protests and which implies the transfer of part and part, mainly, in the matter of fuels. What has finally brought peace to Ecuador is the official commitment that the public coffers will assume the cost of 15 cents of a dollar per gallon of the three most consumed gasolines.
The end of the demonstrations took place in mid-afternoon, after mid-morning of internal indecision among the representatives of the communities regarding the points of the agreement. The new approach had been forged since the night before, when the Minister of Government, Francisco Jiménez, and the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, Leonidas Iza, published two videos confirming their willingness to negotiate again before the mediation of the Catholic Church from Ecuador.
The consensus sets a period of 90 days to verify whether the points of agreement are being fulfilled or not. The Government promised to change laws, such as the repeal of decree 95 that allowed receiving private investment in the State’s oil activities and to reform decree 151 on mining. In this regard, he responded to the demand that a popular consultation always be held before starting mining activity in the surrounding towns and to restrict this type of resource exploitation in protected areas, ancestral territories and in spaces considered to be water sources. In addition, he agreed to deactivate the last state of emergency declared in four provinces neighboring Quito one day before the peace, precisely because of the lack of expectation that there was a few hours ago of reaching an agreement.
The social conflict was stalled after a first attempt at dialogue and Ecuador remained paralyzed, tense and with an increasingly evident social division after almost three weeks of marches, roadblocks and clashes with the security forces. The Government had given in on one of the most controversial points, that of gasoline, but not enough compared to what the indigenous organizations were asking for. The protest was aimed at subsidizing 40 cents of a dollar for each gallon of diesel, extra and ecopaís – gasoline for popular use and transportation – sold to the consumer. The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, had only agreed by decree that the State assume 10 cents of what the consumer pays, allocating 266 million dollars a year to the subsidy.
But that conversation last Monday in which peace was attempted for the first time was cut short that same night by the death of a soldier in a confrontation with community members in the middle of the Amazon. The government broke off the dialogue the following day, leaving the chairs empty at the negotiation table, and delegitimized Leonidas Iza as an interlocutor. The most recognized face of the protests could finally be at the signing of the peace agreement this Thursday and ended up being decisive when one of the other two indigenous representatives who had to sign the agreement backed down and demanded additional details. The noise made it impossible to hear what exactly was missing, but Iza took the microphone and, alluding to the weight of his organization, warned that the pact could continue without him.
“Here the three organizations have stayed and we have not looked at who has more people or less people,” he proclaimed to the bewilderment on the official side and in the ecclesiastical mediation that Gary Espinoza, from Fenocin (another organization that represents peasant communities , indigenous and black), refused to sign the paper that declared the conflict settled. “We are making great efforts to maintain unity, but let it be clear, comrades, if the Fenocin does not want to recognize this victory, leave it empty.” Moments later, everyone was applauding, standing before the public and with the attention of all of Ecuador, with their hands raised in victory. The protests were suspended and the demonstrators were called on to gradually return to their communities.
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