Quito, Jun 27 (EFE).- The first day of talks between Ecuador’s government and the indigenous movement ended on Monday without a definitive result after the former refused a further reduction in fuel prices, the main demand to end two weeks of protests.
The two sides, however, made progress on several issues and will meet again on Tuesday morning in the Basilica of the National Vow, the venue for the talks brokered by the president of the National Assembly, Virgilio Squicela, and the Catholic Church.
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) said that the nationwide, indefinite strike that it called on Jun. 13 will continue until the government provides solutions to the people’s demands.
Monday’s talks focused on two of the 10 demands of the protesters, including a further drop in fuel prices and a halt to the expansion of mining and oil activity, especially in the Amazon.
Conaie described President Guillermo Lasso’s offer to reduce the cost of gasoline and diesel by 10 cents per gallon as insufficient.
The indigenous movement and other social organizations demand that the price of extra gasoline be reduced from $2.50 to $2.10 per gallon and that of diesel be slashed from $1.90 to $1.50.
Government minister Francisco Jiménez, who described the demands as fair, said that the administration would not be able to resolve the fuel cost demand.
“We are willing to listen to a targeted subsidy proposal,” he said, adding that the subsidy currently stands at $3.2 billion a year, which is 13.2 percent of the revenue of the general state budget.
The minister said that the amount was similar to the budget for education or health and that the government was not prepared to accept an outcome that could lead to inefficiency and bankruptcy.
He also said that the government would not present new mining projects in protected areas in the Amazon.
Conaie’s president Leonidas Iza slammed the minister’s response and said he did not understand how a government could ask the indigenous movement to develop a subsidy policy when it was the responsibility of the administration.
Iza also pointed out that despite the progress made on the second demand on mining, the government has not accepted the demonstrators’ request to stop mining activities in water recharge areas and ancestral lands.
He also called for an end to the “criminalization of the protests.” EFE