Roadmap for dialogue between Ecuador gov’t, indigenous peoples established

Quito, Jul 7 (EFE).- The roadmap for the dialogue between representatives of the Ecuadorian government and the indigenous movement to address the demands that sparked the latest wave of protests was established on Thursday after a free-flowing meeting behind closed doors mediated by the Catholic Church.

Government Minister Francisco Jimenez confirmed that in the meeting, held at the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference headquarters, the two sides had defined the 10 issues to be addressed on the list of demands the indigenous groups have pushed for since the start of their protests, which lasted for 18 days.

In addition, the coordinating group was set up which monitor the progress in the dialogue, which is scheduled to begin July 13, when the 90-day period established to find solutions on the accord that put an end to the demonstrations will begin.

During the protests, six people died and about 500 were injured, the casualties occurring among both the demonstrators and the security forces.

According to Jimenez, the dialogue on the assorted issues will focus on fuel subsidies and a moratorium on peasant debts.

On July 1, one day after the “Peace Agreement” was signed, the Guillermo Lasso administration began implementing the accord, reducing the price of subsidized fuel and canceling the decree that promoted oil exploration activities on indigenous lands.

With that, the price of 85-octane gasoline was reduced by 15 US cents along with the price of diesel, and now the two fuels cost $2.40 and $1.75 per gallon, respectively. Ecuador has used the US dollar as its currency since 2000.

Jimenez said that at the Thursday meeting a “series of agreements” were reached, including an accord on the need to negotiate “in good faith, with transparency and clarity on what we can do and about the responsibility we have to the country at this historic moment.”

“There was no major problem in reaching those accords on the way we’re going to move forward,” he said following the session, in which the work to be done during the dialogue was organized “methodically” and in which officials “with decision-making authority” will participate.

That, he asserted, shows that the government is “committed to the definitive solution of problems that have been dragging on for a long time, with the circumstances today providing us with an historic opportunity which we’re not going to squander.”

“Today, we’ve got transparency, clarity, a great deal of openness at the negotiating table, flexibility, which are what is required for these … negotiations and talks, with openness for the different social organizations,” he said.

The minister said that “a good environment” prevailed at the meeting and he saw no reason “to think that things will get tangled up later.”

“On the contrary, we’re very confident that we can move forward easily and at a good clip on the solution to the problems,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Gary Espinosa, the representative of the National Confederation of Indigenous, Peasant and Black Organizations of Ecuador (Fenocin), expressed his hope that the effort would be an example “of how the issues and problems of Ecuador must be handled, that is with cordiality.”

“This peace, this calm is for Ecuador,” he added.

In turn, Leonidas Iza, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), the main organization leading the demonstrations, said that he will transmit to the base elements within the organization the operating procedures approved on Thursday.

He also noted that there are issues that not only the administration but also other state entities, like the Attorney General’s Office and the court system, must address.

“We came here with dignity, for our rights and we hope that in this way … we can create the conditions for the Ecuadorian people to really win, not just one sector,” Iza concluded.

Iza’s trial, after he was arrested on the first day of the protests and later provisionally released after being charged, will be held in August during the course of the dialogue, and the indigenous leader has demanded – as part of the talks – that the social protest not be criminalized.

EFE sm/fgg/cpy/bp

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