Quito, Jun 29 (EFE).- The battle between Ecuador’s government and the indigenous movement mounting protests about the soaring cost of living appeared to reach a deadlock Wednesday, with President Guillermo Lasso having withdrawn from church-mediated talks and a bid by his opponents in Congress to impeach him falling short.
For the last 17 days, demonstrators mobilized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) have shut down roads, set fire to police cars and blocked a fuel convoy escorted by the security forces.
It was after the death of a soldier early Tuesday in the confrontation involving the convoy that Lasso pulled out of a dialogue with Conaie leader Leonidas Iza.
Lasso said that the Conaie members in the Amazonian town of Shushufindi who refused to make way for the convoy attacked the police and soldiers with “firearms and lances,” though the Alliance for Human Rights denied the protesters were armed and accused cops and soldiers of firing live rounds to disperse the crowd.
His government will not return to the table until Iza is replaced by “legitimate representatives of all the peoples and nationalities of Ecuador,” the president said Wednesday, as Conaie held a peaceful march in Quito.
Political consultant Wendy Reyes describes the situation as “very complicated,” given that even if the rank-and-file of Conaie are willing to consider abandoning Iza, the process of choosing a new leader would take the better part of a year.
“It’s a dead-end street,” she tells Efe. “We are suffering a paralysis. There is a tremendous cost to the country, not just economic, in everything.”
Both sides are engaged in creating a narrative of “bad guys and good guys” that does not serve the country, according to Reyes, a professor with George Washington University’s Spanish-language Masters in Governance and Political Communication program.
Six people, including the soldier killed Tuesday, have died in the protests and some 400 others have been injured, and the economic losses run into the millions of dollars.
After some concessions by the government, such as ending the state of emergency, discussions between members of Lasso’s administration and leaders of the protests, including Iza, got under way on Monday at the Basilica of the National Vow, a monumental neo-Gothic church in the heart of Quito.
The first – and so far only – session of the dialogue saw the government agree to withdraw a decree promoting expansion of the oil and gas industry in Amazonia and pledge not to grant any new mining concessions in protected areas.
Conaie, however, countered by demanding a bigger cut in fuel prices than the 10 cents-per-liter reduction the administration announced Sunday.
Reyes suggests that direct talks between Lasso and someone other than Iza representing Conaie represent potential way out of the impasse, a view endorsed by Santiago Perez Samaniego, professor of political science at Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja.
For Lasso to engage personally “would be a demonstration of the leadership the government has lacked” in responding to “the very just social demands of the indigenous movement and of a great part of the Ecuadorian people,” Perez tells Efe.
Late Tuesday, 80 of the 137 members of Congress voted in favor of a motion to remove Lasso, 12 votes shy of the 92 needed to oust the president.
Though he survived the challenge, for Lasso the result is a “victory that tastes of defeat,” Perez says, adding that the president must now focus on resolving problem and not get caught up in trying to determine “who won or who lost, because we are all losing.” EFE