Indigenous organizations and government conclude negotiations in Ecuador

The leaders of the CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE celebrated the advances made in the dialogue process, but also expressed their discontent, pointing out that agreements on various crucial demands are still pending

October 15, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa

Ecuadorian Indigenous organizations and the government of conservative President Guillermo Lasso, on Friday October 14, concluded the negotiations after three months of talks without agreements on all points.

During the 90 days of talks, which began on July 13 at the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference (CEE), ten dialogue tables were held to address the ten demands raised by peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant movements in the national strike in June, which lasted for 18 days.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant Organizations (FENOCIN), the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (FEINE), the main organizers of the national strike, and the national government reached over 200 agreements.

Government Minister Francisco Jiménez, in an interview with Teleamazonas on October 12, reported that the government and the Indigenous movement signed five agreements on the demand concerning price control policies, six on public and private banks, ten on energy and natural resources, 20 on productive development, 33 on security and justice, and 55 on collective rights. On October 13, Vice Health Minister Gabriela Aguinaga reported that 44 agreements were reached at the dialogue on health sector. On October 14, Labor Minister Patricio Donoso said that 17 agreements were reached at the employment and labor rights negotiations. According to the Education and Transport Ministers, partial agreements were also reached on public education and fuel subsidies.

However, the leaders of the CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE, Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organizations, refused to sign the agreements reached on the last day.

The CONAIE’s president Leonidas Iza Salazar said that “in two negotiation spaces, there are no agreements: the labor rights and fuel subsidies, we request the Government to make its position more flexible.”

Salazar added “there is no agreement on labor flexibility and the violation of workers’ rights.” He explained that there is no agreement on the reinstatement of doctors who were dismissed during the pandemic.

He said that we demanded that the price of fuels for the population linked to agriculture and the rural areas be further reduced, this was also not accepted.

On October 13, the leaders the CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE, Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organizations, celebrated the advances made in the dialogue process until that day, but also expressed their discontent, pointing out that several of the signed agreements have not yet been executed, and adding that agreements on some of the most crucial demands are still pending.

The leaders highlighted that the government agreed to forgive small loans of up to 10,000 USD taken by small farmers from public banks, while they rejected applying the same policy to loans with private banks. They also pointed out that there are still no agreements on ending criminalization of social protests.

“In all the tables, there are partial advances that the Government calls agreements, but they cannot say that they have materialized the 10 issues raised, the fundamental proposals have not moved forward,” said Salazar.

Salazar reported that the results, agreements and disagreements of the dialogue process will be analyzed at its annual meeting in November, and a collective decision on future actions will be determined.

At the closing ceremony of the dialogue process, which was held at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Salazar saluted the state officials who made the effort to carry out this process. The CONAIE’s president recognized that significant achievements were made on some matters, while no advances were made on others, which he stressed that the movement would continue to fight for. He added that “the responsibility for the implementation of the results of the dialogue process falls on different State institutions,” and that “the indigenous movement and social organizations will follow up [on their implementation].”

For his part, Jiménez celebrated that “this is a dialogue with results.” “The social and political transformation of Ecuador is possible, in democracy and in peace! The indigenous organizations presented 10 demands and the national government responded to each of them; on that basis we reached consensus and dissent,” said Jiménez. The minister highlighted that 37 government institutions and more than 20 ministers participated in the roundtable discussions.

Between June 13 and June 30, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians mobilized across the country against the right-wing government and its anti-people neoliberal economic policies with a set of 10 demands that support the working class in the face of rising inflation and cost of living. The demands included the reduction and freezing of fuel prices; allocation of greater budget for public education and health sectors; provision of employment opportunities and labor guarantees; putting an end to privatization of public companies; introduction of price control policies for essential products; 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.