Interview with the Ecuadorian Anthropology Network and Collective of Anthropologists

What is the opinion of the Ecuadorian Anthropology Network on what happened during the second day of dialogue between the representatives of the five state functions and the representatives of the indigenous organisations?

The Ecuadorian Anthropology Network denounces the lack of will for dialogue on the part of the executive function, the self-styled “government of the meeting”, by not attending the second day of dialogue with the representatives of the indigenous organisations: CONAIE, FEINE and FENOCIN, among others. We consider that Lasso did not break with Leonidas Iza, leader of CONAIE. He broke with the indigenous peoples, peasants, popular organisations, workers, students, feminist collectives, ecologists and a large part of the citizens who hope for a peace with transformations.

What happened during this second day of dialogue?

On 28 June, indigenous organisations, through their representatives, arrived at the Basílica del Voto Nacional, in the centre of the capital, to continue the second day of dialogue with the five functions of the state. From early morning, carrying flags, members of the indigenous communities of the Coast, the Sierra and the Amazon marched together with their delegates.

The desire for dialogue on the part of the indigenous organisations was expressed in the prolonged wait after the installation of the table, in which the president of the National Assembly, the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, the representative of the Lauritas Mothers and observers of the process such as Elsie Monge of CEDHU and Ramiro Ávila, former magistrate of the Constitutional Court, were present. At the beginning, a yachak performed an Andean ritual to give force to the leaders and harmonise the meeting.

Due to the absence of the representatives of the executive, the organisations expressed their discomfort, as the mechanism of dialogue, a fundamental pillar of any democratic society as a procedure for conflict resolution and the search for consensus, was broken; one of the parties was disrespectful of the previously agreed dialogue. In this sense, the national government did not respect either the convened leaders or the observers of the process.

The FENOCIN leader expressed his discontent: “It is not possible that we are treated as second-class citizens in this country, as the last wheel of the car”. At the same time, the leader of ECUARUNARI condemned the government’s lack of will and emphasised the need for a response to the ten points in the list of demands submitted to the government “so that the people can live in dignified conditions”.

Although the repeal of Decree 95 on oil extractivism was accepted at the end of the first day of dialogue, which gave some hope to the mobilised organisations and collectives, the repeal of Decree 151 was still pending discussion. In addition, there was still a need to discuss the reduction in fuel costs.

Leonidas Iza, representing CONAIE, told the government minister and other government delegates: “Decree 151 is absolutely clear, that the decree be repealed and that the substantial issues that have been raised be accepted: no mining in water recharge zones, no mining in protected areas, no mining on the lands of peoples and nationalities. We have said that, in economic terms, mining does not contribute in the same way as agriculture and livestock (…). The moment mining is carried out, we are undermining the contribution of agriculture to the country, to the state, to the treasury”.

The whole country remained attentive on this second day, but afterwards, after more than two hours of waiting, it was announced that the dialogue would be postponed until two o’clock in the afternoon and that President Lasso would speak on national television at midday. In this appearance, the president said that “the national government cannot sit down to dialogue with those who want to hijack peace”, referring in the first person to the president of CONAIE.

What do you think of the president’s response to the refusal of dialogue?

It is a reinforcement of his refusal to dialogue, he argued against it by referring to the incident that took place in the 18 de noviembre sector of the Shushufindi canton in the early hours of 28 June, in which a sergeant died. We regret this sad fact, and we would have hoped that this death would have led to the imperative need to resume dialogue. On the contrary, in his speech, President Lasso did not acknowledge responsibility, nor did he even lament or express condolences for the 5 people killed, 313 injured, 147 arrests, 74 incidents of violations (Alianza de Organizaciones por los Derechos Humanos, 27.06.2022) by the forces of law and order during the national strike.

At the end of his national broadcast, he returned to the repeated narrative of disqualifying leaders, and, above all, concentrated on delegitimising and blaming Leonidas Iza for everything that had happened, as if the widespread discontent and indignation throughout the country did not exist. In this way, he shut down the general will for dialogue, as if it depended on his decision and his personal antipathies.

What does this statement mean for you?

With his statement, the policy of repression is set to intensify once again, keeping the country in a never-ending escalation of violence. We remain on tenterhooks, as long as there is no real political will for a respectful approach that understands the comprehensiveness of the demands formulated in the framework of the national strike, after seventeen days of state violence, of disrespect for human rights and the right to social protest. What interests are behind it? Surely the agenda of large-scale mining, set by transnational corporations in alliance with the country’s economic and political elites, who have little interest in a change of course in the neoliberal, extractivist, primary-exporting and dependent development model.

How do you consider the current government has treated the CONAIE leadership?

We note that the treatment given to the CONAIE leadership by the current government is irresponsible, racist and discriminatory. We remind President Lasso and his ministers that CONAIE is an institution formed since 1986 through many social struggles. This same CONAIE is, to this day, the spokesperson for the demands of the majority of the Ecuadorian people. Since 1991, the Mesas de Diálogo have been a mechanism for processing conflicts between indigenous organisations and the governments in power. We question the Lasso government’s desperation of social protest, which criminalises the contenders in order to make invisible a social struggle that brings together broad sectors of the population.

What does the Ecuadorian Anthropology Network propose?

As the Ecuadorian Anthropology Network, we propose to call for a plurinational dialogue with the participation of different sectors of civil society and with the presence of international guarantors, given the lack of governmental responses, in order to analyse and achieve the transformations that are needed in the country and not just a return to an innocuous “peace” that makes structural inequalities and racism invisible. After 16 days of having presented the 10 demands, we demand that the President and his cabinet give clear and pertinent responses to the social demands.

The Anthropology Network of Ecuador will remain vigilant of the national context and of any violation of rights by the “forces of law and order” that occurs in the peace zones of the universities and other places of refuge where men, women, young people, girls and boys are found. We ratify our support for the proposals and alternatives promoted by the various collectives and social organisations in search of a solution to the ten problems set out by the organisations of the indigenous movement. Peace depends on diligent and responsible attention and solutions to the ten problems. Never on the progressive use of force. But on the mature and visionary use of reason and sentiment in favour of the pluridiverse. For that would be governing.