Talks between Ecuadorian gov’t, indigenous movement get off to rocky start
Quito, Jul 13 (EFE).- The dialogue between the Ecuadorian government and the country’s largest indigenous organization aimed at resolving the grievances that spurred weeks of protests began Wednesday amid tension amid President Guillermo Lasso’s accusation that the demonstrations were financed by organized crime.
Nearly two weeks after the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) agreed to end the protests, senior officials and representatives of the indigenous peoples gathered in Quito for the start of negotiations.
On behalf of Lasso, Government Minister Francisco Jimenez stressed the administration’s commitment to the talks and said that relevant Cabinet members will make themselves available to the 10 designated working groups.
But Conaie’s leader, Leonidas Iza, said that “the slanders of the president of the republic” were putting the entire process in jeopardy.
“We cannot accept that we continue to be accused of having paid each protester $8, and in this case with resources coming from drug trafficking,” he said, referring to the claims of the conservative billionaire president.
“If the government goes on insisting on the slanders, on trying to impose a truth that does not exist, we will see ourselves forced to take a position,” Iza said.
He went on the denounce what he called the “criminalization” of Conaie members for their actions during the protest.
“In this moment we have 416 brothers criminalized nationwide,” Iza said.
The Attorney General’s Office said last week that 369 criminal investigations were under way in connection with the 18 days of protests.
Prosecutors are considering filing charges for offenses including interfering with a public service, vandalism, robbery, kidnapping, sabotage and rebellion.
Demonstrators blocked roads and clashed with police and soldiers in incidents that left six people dead and dozens more wounded.
The government made some concessions to secure an end to the protests, agreeing to reduce the cost of fuel at the pump to $2.40 a gallon (3.78 liters) for regular gasoline and $1.75 a gallon for diesel and to withdraw a decree promoting expansion of the oil and gas industry in Amazonia.
Other Conaie demands, such as price controls on necessities and a moratorium on privatization of state enterprises, will be reviewed by the 10 working groups. EFE sm/dr