Many in Ecuador’s robust indigenous movement are questioning a call by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, also known as CONAIE, for a national uprising against the government of President Rafael Correa.
CONAIE has rejected a call for dialogue sponsored by the government and have instead have called for an indigenous-led uprising, which will begin with marches on Aug. 2 in the Zamora province and conclude in Quito for an uprising on Aug. 10.
"Everyone needs to know that CONAIE is not the only indigenous voice in the country,” Franklin Columba, leader of the National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations (FENOCIN) told teleSUR English on Thursday. “Here there are many organizations that also have their own processes.”
CONAIE’s demands are varied. For many indigenous activists government withdrawal from their land and and a repeal of water laws are essential. Others have joined protests lead by the wealthy right-wing opposition leaders that have rejected of the capital gains bill and inheritance tax proposed by the national government to redistribute wealth.
"This march is to try and force the national government reconsider its political positions that they have been imposing. This uprising is demanding that the national government give concrete responses to our historic demands, our concrete demands in this country," said President of CONAIE Jorge Herrera to the press.
The organization has taken a hardline to those who question their tactics, saying that they will sanction indigenous leaders who refuse to participate in the August uprising.
Columba told teleSUR that FENOCIN has rejected CONAIE’s uprising and it’s call for a national strike because “we as a national organization are not going to lend ourselves to playing the right's game," referring to the wealthy right-wing opposition who have used the momentum of current protests to denounce laws to redistribute the wealth in the country.
This is not the first indigenous uprising which has been called for in Ecuador. Indigenous nationalities from across the country converged on Quito on May 28, 1990. They blocked highways, held hunger strikes and occupied public spaces until they reached an agreement with the national government on June 11.
During the 1990 uprising CONAIE received popular support, as many of their demands represented those who lived harsh lives in Ecuadorean society. The movement is today under new leadership, and analysts have pointed to the fact that Pachakutik, the political party representing CONAIE, seems to be forging alliances with right-wing parties like former presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso's CREO party.
"The alliances which we have seen Pachakutik make, the political arm, party of the indigenous movement of CONAIE and the Ecuarunari movement, are with right-wing groups. They are having meetings. This is a blow to their own ideological principles. They have always said that any type of relationship with the right would be impossible, because of what the right stands for,” said analyst Werner Vasquez to teleSUR English.
“(The right-wing) is the symbol of historic repression and exploitation suffered by the indigenous population. So it seems impossible to try to understand these alliances. I think it comes from them wanting to align themselves with those who are also opposed to the Citizen's Revolution, and who have a common enemy, which is the state."
Many indigenous organizations who participated in the 1990 uprising today feel that CONAIE no longer represents their interests. Some organizations, like FEI, agree that the land and water laws need to be revised, but they have chosen to participate in the National Dialogue on Equality and Social Justice to discuss these measures.
"We have proposed for this dialogue to cover fundamental issues, transcendental issues, like the agrarian revolution, also putting this in the context of diversifying production in the country, to support small and medium scale producers, campesinos and indigenous peoples,” said Jose Agualsaca, president of the Indigenous Federation of Ecuador (FEI) following a meeting with representatives of the national government to teleSUR English.
He went on to say, “We believe that these marches and this uprising wants to destabilize the country, and what they really want is to overthrow President Rafael Correa from power. But it would not end there, they want to take him out, then convoke a new constitutional assembly, and make a new constitution which would serve the interests of the richest sectors of society. This is the position of the FEI."
Indigenous organizations across Ecuador are finding themselves at odds with CONAIE'S leadership, which has been viewed as moving further and further away from its historic support base. These groups are opting for dialogue, discussing their concerns and ideas with national authorities, in an effort to become key participants in constructing the future of the country.