Despite the calls for dialogue and the supposed openness of all the actors, the social sectors and the government of President Guillermo Lasso continue to clash with no points of consensus in sight.
The versions and visions of the first day of the national strike vary depending on the side reporting them. For the government, the response to the call for a strike was “substantially lower” than expected. For Conaie it was greater than what the Executive wants to admit.
According to both sides, the success or failure of the national strike will be seen in the evolution of the demonstrations. If they multiply and continue for days or if they vanish.
The memory of the October 2019 protests is the measuring stick for the success of the strike. In concert with that, much of the official discourse is focused on condemning possible vandalism, which remains a stigma from 2019. President Guillermo Lasso himself warned in advance that they will apply the laws with all possible rigor if violence breaks out.
Lasso said that he will not let the government be unfairly described as repressive. Therefore, the government’s strategy is to collect evidence and document any alleged criminal offenses, and then leave the prosecution processes in the hands of the Prosecutor’s Office.
In addition, the president placed all responsibility for the stoppages and economic damages of the day on Conaie and its president Leonidas Iza, whom they brand as violent, conniving and destabilizing. But, in any case, they again invited him to open dialogue with them.
“Everyone knows where the Palace is,” said the Minister of the Government, Francisco Jiménez, of the Carondelet. He stated that they will receive the social leaders when they knock on their door.
Previous meetings between the groups did not yield any results. Conaie used the failure of those meetings as its excuse to forgo meeting it the government before delivering its list of proposals and demands to the Presidency.
It’s not just Conaie
Although the initial decision to protest against President Lasso was made by Conaie, other groups, which had preferred to remain in dialogue with the government, also joined the call.
The National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin), the Council of Evangelical Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (Feine) and the National Federation of Peasant Organizations (Fenoc), made a joint announcement from the Conaie headquarters in Quito.
The leaders of these groups were present at various mobilization points in the country. Leonidas Iza remained in his province, Cotopaxi, from where he gave reports and responded to messages from the office of the President.
There he said that the indigenous mobilization had not planned to only reach Quito. That it is a national mobilization, in each territory and of an indefinite nature. The indigenous leader constantly called on the authorities to listen to his 10 demands, to avoid repression and for him to moderate his speech.
The leaders of the different groups that joined the strike supports Iza’s demands and criticisms against the actions and inactions of President Guillermo Lasso, especially on economic matters.
The indigenous and peasant communities that closed some roads in the country were not the only ones to protest. They were joined by other sectors in different corners of 17 provinces, with 69 demonstrations, according to the indigenous movement.
There were reports of protests led by banana growers, members of the Peasant Social Security, health professionals, teachers, college and university students, women’s groups, farmers, rice farmers, unions, and popular sectors. Each adding their own slogans.
The unions grouped in the Popular Front also announced their support for the strike and their own calls to mobilize on Thursday June 16th and Thursday June 23rd.
On Tuesday morning, June 14th, Marlon Santi, coordinator of the Pachakutik movement, said that they also support the mobilizations of the June 2022 national strike.
Santi spoke from outside the Flagrancia Unit on La Patria Avenue in Quito where Leonidas Iza, president of the Conaie was detained for several hours before he was transferred to Latacunga prison, where his flagrancy hearing is planned.
He said that Pachakutik will continue “asking for respect for the physical integrity and rights of all leaders, especially Leondias Iza.” In addition, he said that the bases of the political organization are “mobilized at the territorial level.” Santi said that the convocation of the Conaie “was broad” and that Pachakutik “has always been aligned with the agenda of the indigenous movement.”
Santi said that he also requested the intervention of international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Organization of American States (OAS) to guarantee the rule of law in the country.
He added that Pachakutik has dialogue as a priority and that he did not deny that the political movement has dialogued with the government, but he insists that “there is a unanimous decision” to support the mobilizations and the demands of the Conaie.
The government version
The government reported that the demonstrations increased during the day, with 60 events, but without a much support of citizens. It said that the strike was concentrated in Pichincha, Cotopaxi and Pastaza. And they spoke of ‘fake news’ about the seizure of oil blocks.
“The violence of these groups has increased (…), they kidnapped police officers in Saraguro,” said the Minister of the Interior, as well as intimidations and attacks on infrastructure in flower and broccoli farms in Cotopaxi.
“There has not been the famous repression that they are always claiming” and the Police used “less than a dozen” canisters of tear gas, said the Minister of the Interior, who reiterated that there were also no detainees for road closures.
But the Minister of Education, María Brown, confirmed the arrest in the afternoon of six students in the center of the capital.
The transport minister, Marcelo Cabrera, said that there were problems on one of the Azuay roads. Although the same reports from the ECU 911 indicated at the end of Monday that there were also closures of roads in Cañar, Tungurahua, Pastaza and Cotopaxi.
Given the demands raised by the social sectors, the Government Minister said that they have the answers and actions for each one and that they continue to advance to serve the needs of other sectors.
In addition, the authorities preferred to focus on citizen expressions of rejection of a national strike and on the groups that decided not to join the call.
Police arrest Iza
Leonidas Iza, president of Conaie, was arrested in the early morning of Tuesday June 14, 2022, after visiting the protesters entrenched on the Pan-American highway, El Chasqui sector, in Cotopaxi.
Iza was transferred to Latacunga prison after spending several hours in the Flagrancia Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office, on Patria Avenue, in Quito.
Lenin Sarzoza, Iza’s lawyer, confirmed this information and said that they still do not have a time for the flagrancy qualification hearing, although he warned that he will request a habeas corpus to release the leader.
The secretary general of the Public Administration, Iván Correa, said that there are five detainees between material and intellectual authors of acts of vandalism, violence or interruption of public services.
Apawki Castro, an indigenous leader, said that armed soldiers carried out an “ambush” against the six people who were in the Conaie car.
The indigenous leadership demands the immediate release of their leader or announced that they will radicalize the strike with the total closure of the roads that link the center of the country.
The Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, said that there have been 44 events in the country and that in few of them there were acts of vandalism, which have been overcome.
He added that there are 41 previous investigations open in the Prosecutor’s Office on alleged criminal offenses committed during the mobilizations.
President Guillermo Lasso posted a video on his Twitter account at 1:18 a.m. on Tuesday in which he says that on Monday — the first day of the national strike — “acts of vandalism occurred that are prohibited by the Constitution and laws.”
According to the President, “behind these crimes there are intellectual and material authors who must answer to the Ecuadorian people” and that is why they have begun to arrest those presumed responsible for these crimes.
What Conaie is demanding
Amid all the debate over the national strike, the demands of Conaie are getting little coverage.
Conaie said that they are holding a national strike to request that “10 monetary and rights issues” be included in the agenda of the Guillermo Lasso government, which the organization has developed since 2021.
These are their specific demands:
1. Reduction and no more rise in fuel prices. Freeze Diesel at 1.50 dollars and Extra and Ecopaís gasoline at 2.10 dollars (The current price per gallon of Extra and Ecopaís is at 2.55 dollars; that of Diesel at 1.90 dollars)
2. Repeal decrees 1158, 1183, 1054, and enter the process of targeting the sectors that need subsidy: farmers, peasants, transporters, fishermen.
3. Economic relief for more than 4 million families with a moratorium of at least one year and debt renegotiation with a reduction in interest rates in the financial system (public and private banks and cooperatives). That goods such as houses, land and vehicles are not seized due to non-payment.
4. Fair prices on farm products: milk, rice, bananas, onions, fertilizers, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and more. That royalties are not charged on flowers so that millions of peasants, small and medium producers can have a guarantee of support and continue producing.
5. Improve employment and labor rights with policies and public investment to curb job insecurity and ensure the sustainability of the popular economy. Demand payment of debts to the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (just two weeks ago, the government paid the first installment: $140 million, which represents 1.7% of the debt).
6. Moratorium on the expansion of the extractive mining or oil frontier, audit and comprehensive reparation for socio-environmental impacts. For the protection of territories, water sources and fragile ecosystems. Repeal of Decrees 95 and 151 on hydrocarbon policy and the Action Plan for the Ecuadorian Mining Sector, respectively.
7. Respect for the 21 collective rights such as bilingual intercultural education, indigenous justice, prior, free and informed consultation, organization and self-determination of indigenous peoples.
8. Put a stop to the privatization of strategic sectors, such as the Banco del Pacífico, hydroelectric plants, IESS, CNT, highways, health, among others.
9. Price control policies and speculation in the market for basic necessities, carried out by intermediaries and price abuse in industrialized products in supermarket chains.
10. Health and education including an urgent budget in the face of shortages in hospitals due to lack of medicines and personnel. Guarantee youth access to higher education and improvement of infrastructure in schools, colleges and universities. In addition, security, protection and generation of effective public policies to stop the wave of violence, hired assassins, delinquency, drug trafficking, kidnapping and organized crime that keeps Ecuador in distress.