The ‘Indigenas’ Beat Ecuador’s President in a Battle Without Winners

Moreno preferred to blame the Correistas rather than the indígenas for the acts of violence (EFE/Jose Jacome)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías L. Benarroch /Daniela Brik, Quito, 15th October, 2019 — The “indigenous spectre” has beaten Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and forced him to repeal the controversial decree that raised the price of fuel, putting him and Ecuador between a rock and a hard place with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Decree 883 will be remembered by many Ecuadorians as the decree which led to the worst bout of social violence in recent years, a situation which many people think could have been forseen, and could have led to a total institutional collapse.

The eleven days of protests didn’t produce any winners on the battlefield, and in fact it seems there are only losers. continue reading

“It may be that the central actors in this conflict each underestimated the other side’s ability to act”, commented Efe’s analyst Daniel Kersffeld [an Argentinian left wing writer for Spanish news agency] the day after the principal parties reached an agreement to revise the whole government strategy in the face of the financial agency.

For Kersffeld, the government didn’t think that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) could pull together more than 20,000 indígenas, nor that they would have enough strength to organise such a long strike, and the capacity to act simultaneously over all the country.

“The indigenous movement, also underestimated the government’s ability to respond: the level of repression in the last few days is unprecedented in the history of a country wracked by repeated social convulsions”, he said.

In his opinion, the agreement was a response to both parties beginning to show “signs of weakening and growing condemnation on the part of those interests which chose to keep themselves outside the conflict”.

The destruction and losses occasioned by the shutdown — the indígenas closed the principal highways, causing shortages — and the high number of victims of police repression of the protests — between five and seven deaths, and a thousand people injured — are not the only damages.

An official told Efe on Monday, without wanting to be identified, that “the social fabric had also been undermined” and it remains to be seen how the wounds left by this conflict may be healed.

Wounds which also are rooted in the old battle between morenistas and correistas, the two big political blocs headed by President Moreno and his predecessor Rafael Correa, because stretching beyond the price of fuel, the revolt has been a mixture of interests

“The connection between the indígenas and the violent demonstrators is not real. The others have ridden on the back of the indígenas protest, relating to recognition of specifically economic issues, causing chaos”, Jose Valencia, the Foreign Minister, explained to Efe.

In spite of the fact that they also took part in acts of looting and vandalism, the government has exonerated the indigenous movement from any responsibility, and laid all the blame for the violence on correismo.

“The government could not open two fronts, like the correistas, but the indígenas are more manipulative than the others, and manipulated human rights organisations, and even international media, who made them look like poor victims”, says political scientist Santiago Basabe, talking to Efe.

He remembered the fanatical speeches by their leaders throughout the protest, in which they called Moreno “the cripple” because he was in a wheelchair.

He also explained that it is not “politically correct” to blame the indígenas because that immediately triggers accusations of “racism”.

In weighing up the winners and losers, Basabe sees “more cohesiveness” in the indigenous movement, which “has become an important factor, as it was before correismo”, but he thinks that it has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the mestizos, who did not approve” of their violent actions and paralysing the country.

Kersffeld also thinks that Conaie has gained importance as a “resistance actor”, but  not a political force capable of directly bending the wishes of the government”. “The legitimacy of their protest lies in their historic position of misery and backwardness, in political and social stigma”, he considers.

Both think that the correismo has lost force as the target of the accusations and above all that the government looks very weakened now and incapable of moving forward on reforms in order to continue receiving help from the IMF.

“Moreno finds himself seriously weakened and his principal political team members severely challenged by a good part of public opinion”, says Kersffeld.

For his part, Basabe thinks it will be difficult in the conditions created for the government to have anything to offer to satisfy the IMF’s demand for cutbacks and increased tax income, because it will be unable to progress on fiscal reform and even less on labour reform.

In those circumstances, the promised loans may be denied, which would be a severe blow to the national fiscal situation.

“Moreno has been left floating in the air, hoping that, with the passage of time, perhaps he will be able to undertake relevant measures, small loans here and there”, thinks the political scientist, who considers that the whole society has gained from the accord because the outcome could have been worse: a complete national institutional destruction.

This Monday, the country is trying to return to normality. The measures taken in the State of Emergency decreed last week, like the curfew and the militarisation of the Metropolitan District of Quito and the valleys, are de facto cancelled, according to government Defence sources, following the agreement on Sunday between the indigenous leaders and the government.

But the people did not wait for an official announcement, and, from early morning, the Ecuadorians hit the streets, especially in the capital, Quito. The city slowly recovered its routine, with the opening up of the streets, the resumption of public and private transport, the resulting traffic jams, also the restocking of the markets and supermarkets, follwing a Sunday in which there began to be shortages of basics like bread, milk and eggs.

School classes, which were interrupted from October 3rd, when the so-called national strike started, with resulting fierce confrontations, started up again this Tuesday, announced the Ministry of Education.

As another sign of return to normality, we saw the progressive restarting of flights from Quito airport, the resumption of operations in the Amazonian oilfields, and in the services from the 62 bus stations throughout the country.

Hundreds of people took part yesterday in efforts to clean up, remove rubble and clear away paving stones in the centre of Quito, as a voluntary and municipal operation.

Andres Ordonez, an agent of the Metropolitan Transport Agency in the capital, explained that more than 300 officers participated in this project, along with hundreds of students.

“They are working out the extent of the damage, but up to last Thursday, losses added up to about 100,000 million dollars”, he said.

Translated by GH

Editor’s note: The translator of this article is an Ecuadorian and has appended the following note, which we include here in recognition of the fact that “translators are sometimes allowed to express their perspectives, particularly when they are unpaid volunteers.” (!)

Translator’s note: Readers should be aware that there is some imbalance in this article in that it makes no reference to the comments of many Ecuadorians glued to the television every day watching the unfolding tragedy, who considered that this was an attempt by correistas to destabilise the government, in league with Maduro in Venezuela, possibly aided by the FARC, and that some of the indigenous leaders were indeed correistas themselves. The translator does not assert this view, he simply reports it.


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