Ecuador’s popular movements halt national strike after tentative agreement

Ibarra, Imbabura Province, Ecuador

July 3 – Representatives of popular organizations ended an 18-day national strike in Ecuador the afternoon of June 30, after a tentative agreement with the neoliberal government. Many issues are left unresolved, and many Ecuadorians doubt that the government will comply with the agreement it signed. The main organizations are CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE, representing Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and peasant social organizations, respectively.

Strike leader Leonardo Iza was arrested by the neoliberal regime in Ecuador.

The government estimates that this strike drained $1 billion from an economy which was recovering from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic under Washington Consensus prescriptions for austerity. In the midst of the strike, on June 24, the International Monetary Fund disbursed $1 billion to Ecuador.

On June 25, the strike, which began June 13, had already surpassed the 11-day Uprising of October 2019 in length, depth and breadth. That day, Indigenous women, feminists and dissident persons marched to demand an end to the violence against the participants in the national strike. 

The Indigenous women and their feminist and LGBTQI+ comrades directly challenged the government, after President Guillermo Lasso had just declared that he would use any means necessary to put an end to the mobilizations. The lethal repression did continue for several more days. 

The arrest of CONAIE leader Leonidas Iza on the second day of the strike only intensified the resistance and deepened solidarity. The Indigenous marchers were joined by central labor councils, transport workers, students, teachers, small and medium producers, middle classes, intellectuals, artists and many other social sectors. 

These supporters assisted the strikers in Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the main focal point. Police occupied the Casa de las Culturas, which angered intellectuals and artists of all kinds, who then supported the strike.

Leonidas Iza credited a vast network of support that sustained the Indigenous mobilization in Quito. That web integrated supporters in the provinces, who then sent produce to the barrios of Quito, where residents organized food kitchens (“ollas”), and the “Zones of Peace” in the universities and the Casa de las Culturas. “To say to the comrades in any latitude of the world, the struggle is the mother of all rights,” wrote Iza on Facebook. 

Meanwhile, progressive legislators in the National Assembly saw in the crisis an opportunity to oust President Lasso but failed to add enough votes to impeach him on June 27. The president scorned the authors of the constitutional option as “coup conspirators.” The National Assembly has only a 4% public approval rating, even worse than Lasso himself.

Groups discuss 10-point agenda

That same day, CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE met with government ministers in the Basilica in Quito to discuss their 10-point agenda, as militants surrounded the edifice and maintained a vigil. Lasso was absent, allegedly due to a case of “asymptomatic COVID.”

According to a Twitter feed, Marlon Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) stood to face the ministers at the negotiating table and said, “Authorities, we have to correct these historical errors. In the 21st century it is not possible for you to listen to us. We have to rise up! We have to march! There have to be deaths to get you to listen to us!” 

Negotiations were suspended the next day, after the military launched an apparent provocation in Shushufindi Canton in the Amazonian province of Sucumbios, which resulted in the death of an Indigenous soldier and the wounding of 12 others. President Guillermo Lasso imposed martial law in Sucumbios and three other provinces.

Lasso used Shushufindi as a false flag to put an end to dialogue. Blaming Leonidas Iza as a perpetrator, he said, “we will not negotiate with those who hold Ecuador hostage, with those who attack our security forces.” 

Lasso criminalized Leonidas Iza and summoned CONAIE to send “legitimate representatives” to the table. CONAIE answered, “Lasso does not break with Leonidas; he breaks with the people.” Thus the president only managed to isolate himself and to expose the fascist underpinnings of neoliberal “democracy.”

Lasso’s bet on a violent war of attrition, amplified by the soft power of the corporate media, failed. True to form, when the dust settled at the end of the strike, Lasso and the media projected the fake news that the government had defeated a beaten Indigenous movement. 

Indigenous leader to face charges

Lawfare criminalizes social protest in 2022, as it did in October 2019. Iza must attend a hearing July 4 in Latacunga, where he will be charged with “paralyzing a public service,” a felony punishable by one to three years in prison. President Lasso will testify against the president of CONAIE. Hundreds of Indigenous people will assemble outside the court in protest.

Dialogue with the government was resumed June 30 with representatives of CONAIE, FENOCIN and FEINE, led by Leonidas Iza. The Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference mediated the negotiations and drafted an agreement which initially provoked a debate among the social organizations. After several hours of discussion and minor changes, the agreement was signed. (tinyurl.com/2p8bdz22)

The following are some of the main points in the agreement: State of Exception (martial law) was repealed; Decree 452 requires the country’s governors to intensify control operations to prevent and eradicate speculative pricing processes; the declaration of an emergency in the health sector; establishment of compensatory public policies for rural and urban areas; and the reduction of fuel prices by 15 cents per gallon. 

Executive Decree No. 95 on hydrocarbons is repealed, which stops the expansion of the oil frontier. Executive Decree No. 151 is reformed, prohibiting mining in protected areas and ancestral territories, archaeological zones and water-protection areas. 

In addition, a commission will be established for the resolution of pending issues. The government has 90 days to respond to these demands. 

In the 18 days of the national strike, the Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights registered 76 violations of rights, six deaths, 331 injured persons and 152 arrests.

Various observers in Ecuador and elsewhere viewed the Indigenous movement and Leonidas Iza as the winners in the fierce class struggle of June 2022, proving they could sustain 18 days of mobilization and social protests in the face of vicious repression. In fact, the mobilizations advanced the interests of the two-thirds of Ecuadorians, who labor without benefits in the informal economy, who lack access to health care and education.

 Christian Gonzalez, a militant in the Citizens Movement (led by Correa) who was persecuted for supporting the Uprising of October 2019, tweeted the following in solidarity with the National Strike of 2022: “Thank you guys, see you on the road here. Thankfully, this generation not only teaches us to fight, it hands us an infinite legacy of dignity.”

The road is wide open and the future is uncertain, but as Christian Gonzalez says, the Indigenous Movement teaches us to fight. It has shared with us an infinite legacy of human dignity.

 

Michael Otto

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Michael Otto

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