Ecuadorian Indigenous organizations and government reach agreement to end national strike

Indigenous organizations and the government of President Guillermo Lasso reached consensus on the most substantial demands and agreed to continue discussing the pending ones and find a solution to them in the next 90 days

July 01, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Last day of the national strike in Ecuador. Photo: Alexander Crespo/ Nuestroamericano

After 18 days of nationwide social protests and roadblocks, the Ecuadorian Indigenous movement succeeded in persuading the conservative national government to make concessions on some of its neoliberal economic policies and halt the plan to overhaul the economy with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On Thursday, June 30, the representatives of Ecuadorian Indigenous organizations and the government of President Guillermo Lasso signed an agreement to end the national strike and advance the negotiation process to address the social demands raised by the organizations. The agreement was reached at a round of talks mediated by the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference in the capital Quito on Thursday.

The dialogue process was attended by leaders of the key organizations behind the national strike –Leonidas Iza of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE); Gary Espinoza of the National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant Organizations (FENOCIN); and Eustaquio Tuala of the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (FEINE);– and Government Minister Francisco Jiménez.

Since June 13, hundreds of thousands of members of peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities had been mobilizing across the country, demanding that the Lasso government take action on 10 key points raised by the movements. These included the reduction and freezing of fuel prices; provision of employment opportunities and labor guarantees; putting an end to privatization of public companies; introduction of price control policies for essential products; allocation of greater budget for public education and health sectors; protection to people from banking and finance sectors; provision of fair prices for agricultural products; an end to drug trafficking, kidnappings and violence; bans on mining and oil exploitation activities in Indigenous territories and near water resources; and respect of the collective rights of Indigenous peoples and nationalities.

In addition to the achievements made during previous negotiations, yesterday, the organizations advanced in convincing the government to reduce petrol and diesel prices by another 5 cents a gallon. As a result of this decision, the price of extra gasoline dropped from USD 2.45 to USD 2.40 per gallon while diesel went down from USD 1.80 to USD 1.75 per gallon. They also succeeded in swaying the government to declare the health system in an emergency, establish that all governors must intensify control operations to prevent and eradicate price speculation, promulgate compensatory public policies for the rural and urban sectors, reform decree 151 to control mining activity in protected areas and near water sources, and repeal the recently redeclared state of emergency.

Following the signing of the agreement, the representatives of the Indigenous organizations announced the suspension of the national strike, thanked the people for their struggle, and called on them to gradually return to their respective territories. Meanwhile, after hearing the news, hundreds of people, who had gathered outside the Episcopal Conference, celebrated the victory of their social struggle.

“Only the struggle has allowed us to win rights! We have obtained results in the 10-point national agenda, we have achieved measures to alleviate the economic, health and education situation of vulnerable families in the countryside and cities, we have achieved decrees to defend life,” celebrated CONAIE in a tweet.

Meanwhile, CONAIE’s President Iza, during his speech following the signing of agreements, acknowledged that the movement did not achieve everything it wanted, but pointed to “significant gains.” He vowed to continue working for the unity and benefit of the working class. He rejected the accusations of terrorism against the demonstrators by the Presideny and added that “the issue of criminalization will remain under the good faith, the good will of the national government…We will always fight for independence of functions.”

He requested the authorities to refrain from criminalizing those who took part in the protests. “Let’s discuss this at the table, a table of justice so that the social struggle is not really criminalized in this country…National Government, enough of stigmatizing and racializing social fighters for social causes. Enough of calling us terrorists,” he said.