August 18, 2015
By Santiago Escobar
Photo: On April 15, the coordinator of Pachakutik, the political front of CONAIE movement,
met with banker and right-wing politician, Guillermo Lasso. Pachakutik and Lasso
agreed to rally against the government.
On August 13th, 2015 bankers, right-wing groups, few indigenous people, foreign funded NGOs, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media, called to a general strike against the government of President Rafael Correa, but did not succeed in their destabilization attempts.
This plot started as a “marcha indigena” (“indigenous rally”) during which people supposedly marched over 700 kilometers across several provinces to finally reach the capital of Ecuador, Quito. However, in fact most participants traveled by SUV and gas-guzzling trucks owned by infamous CONAIE and Ecuarunari members. ‘Infamous’ because all their glory and revolutionary past vanished when these historic indigenous organizations succumbed to the old elites and joined the right wing agenda lead by banker Guillermo Lasso, who according to Wikileaks is a key contact and has strong ties to the US Embassy in Ecuador.
Don’t get confused the current CONAIE and Ecuarunari are no longer the same from the 1990s and 2000s when they stood up and fought against neo liberal governments.
Why they protest
In June 2015 wealthy elites claimed that two new bills aimed at addressing inequality and the concentration of wealth, would affect small business, families assets and all kind of entrepreneurship. In fact however, these bills would only impact less than 2% of the Ecuadorian population and no poor and middle class families. President Correa opted to temporarily withdraw the bills in an effort to promote a national debate around the pressing problem of inequality.
In this context the leadership of CONAIE and Ecuarunari not just met with banker Lasso, but also got public support from the notorious far-right mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, the leader of Partido Social Cristiano (PSC). His PSC party has been linked to the disappearance and torture of labor, indigenous and student activists in the 90s. Part of the opposition group is also Andres Paez who has strong ties to Chevron Oil Corporation.
In this hodgepodge, Jorge Herrera head of CONAIE and Carlos Perez of Ecuarunari, both have used the same rhetoric as the ultra-reactionary Venezuelan opposition, calling to defend “freedom”, and fighting against a supposed dictatorship of Correa and to avoid becoming as Venezuela. Furthermore, both Herrera and Perez made statements against the proposed two new bills. Carlos Perez even stated that Ecuador and Venezuela are ‘like Germany and Italy’ (alluding to fascism), and that all current progressive governments in Latin America especially Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are ‘fake leftists who are only making people poorer’.
Furthermore, these opposition groups have not accepted the invitation by Correa’s government to have an open and public dialogue, only confirming that this is part of a regional plan aiming to topple the revolutionary governments across Latin America. This real objective is also revealed by the opposition now calling the “marcha indigena” to become an indefinite general strike, which includes road blocks and violent rioters, perfectly synchronized on the heels of right-wing demonstrations against taxes on the ultra-rich.
Already in 2014 the president correctly identified that “People must prevail over capital,” adding that politics is about whose interest governments serve, asking the questions: “Elites or the majority? Capital or humankind? The market or society?
Policies and programs depend on who holds the balance of power.”
What the Correa administration has achieved
Ecuador now collects three times more in taxes than it did in 2006 (when tax evasion was rampant), allowing the government to invest in much needed infrastructure and services. As a result of this social change, President Correa has been rated as one of the most popular presidents in Latin America throughout his administration. Furthermore, political stability has returned to the Andean nation.
Correa and his supporters have won 10 elections since 2007. Promoting equality and tackling discrimination has also been given greater emphasis than in the country’s past.
This has boosted the use of different native languages, which were formerly endangered. Laws to protect minorities have also been implemented, including a law which compels companies to reserve four percent of jobs for people with disabilities, and other quotas for minority ethnic groups – such as indigenous communities and Afro-Ecuadorians – in order to narrow inequality gaps. The same has been applied in the country’s higher education system, where indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorean community inclusion has soared.
The government has also invested more than $200 million in Intercultural Bilingual Education in order to maintain and encourage indigenous languages since the start of the Citizen’s Revolution.
Also, with the new Media Law – approved in 2013 – the indigenous communities have greater access to community media. The law assigns 34 percent of the country’s radio and TV frequencies to community media. So far, 14 radio frequencies have been assigned to each of the country’s indigenous groups.
As an Ecuadorian migrant living in Canada for the past 6 years, every time I visit Ecuador I am able to see the massive re-distribution of wealth that has taken place. Now the majority of people have access to quality services. Especially the access to health and education needs to be highlighted, as 8 years ago this was only a privilege of the few. After decades of being one of the poorest countries in the region, the current government has undertaken a series of deep reforms, which have delivered remarkable changes for Ecuador’s long-excluded majority, particularly for indigenous peoples.
Before the citizen’s revolution, the Ecuadorian economy was collapsed forcing many to migrate, but today all Ecuadorian migrants are again part of the country being able to elect members of Parliament to represent our particular needs and create policies to make our lives better while living abroad. This allows us to maintain a real connection and participation with our homeland; and with numerous benefits in place for returning migrants, many are finally able to return home.
Ecuador’s fight for sovereignty has come at a price
Ecuador has shown an anti- colonial/imperialist foreign policy in order to tackle Western domination. The Correa government shut down the U.S. military base in Manta, asserted control over the country’s oil and other natural resources, taking them away from domination by multinationals, and canceled the punishing international debt. In the past three times as much was spent on debt repayment than on social services. Affecting big players in the financial world, specially US and European elites.
However, this fight for sovereignty has come at a price. On Sept. 30th 2010, a police strike ended up in a violent revolt against President Correa, who was held hostage and fenced in a hospital for several hours. Policemen openly called to assassinate President Correa the outcome of the clashes resulted in 10 deaths. Documents emerged showing massive U.S. funding for policemen and opposition groups, through USAID.
Despite this direct threat, Correa continued to assert an independent foreign policy; one of his boldest moves was granting Julian Assange asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012, a move that angered the U.K., Swedish and US governments.
Today the right wing opposition continues to receive funding from NGOs protecting US interests. According to the Bolivian and Ecuadorian heads of state, the “empire” is attacking Latin American nations with “soft coups”.
Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the Ecuadorean right of using Indigenous movements to topple President Rafael Correa, and urged them not to be treated like instruments.
“I want to tell my Indigenous brothers in Ecuador to not allow themselves to be used against the Ecuadorean government,” said President Morales
Today the rich fight against the government of the poor
When you have a well-organized plot implemented by small indigenous groups, bankers, right wing parties, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media and the US Embassy against a revolutionary government of the people, you clearly have to choose a side.
During the coup against Allende in Chile there were only two sides. During the coup against Chavez in Venezuela there were only 2 sides. During the coup against Zelaya in Honduras there were only 2 sides.
Today in Ecuador, there are only 2 sides. The side of the people and the citizen’s revolution or the side of the right wing indigenous traitors that share the same ideas, speech and demands as the bankers and the elites.
As president Correa put it: “Before the poor had to fight against the government of the bankers. Today, the rich fight against the government of the poor, for the ‘crime’ of seeking a bit of social justice”.
[Santiago Escobar is an Ecuadorian citizen living in Canada since 2009. He has spent the last 4 years working on migrant workers’ rights with migrant farm workers in the Niagara region. Prior to this Escobar organized with Social Movements in both Ecuador and Venezuela implementing People’s Media platforms. In 2009 Escobar became a whistleblower in the environmental law suit against the Oil giant Chevron exposing Chevron’s corruption and dirty tricks operations in Ecuador. The evidence provided have been used in international courts exposing Chevron’s corruption. Escobar also serves as the coordinator of http://www.antichevron.ca/ campaign in Canada.]