Ecuador: Activists Hold Funeral, Seek Justice During Popular Assembly
In an unparalleled demonstration of resistance, defiance, and power, indigenous people in Ecuador held a popular assembly all day Thursday, October 10, to reject police/military repression to the protests that began eight days ago to pressure the Ecuadorian government to end FMI’s neoliberal economic policies tied to a US$4.2 billion fund. Repression was the norm Wednesday and was particularly felt that night within the premises of two universities–Universidad Salesiana, Universidad Católica–where entire families, including the elderly, women and children, were sleeping and suffered tear gas attacks and repression from the national police, without prior notice. The actions forced the Ministry of Interior, Maria Paula Romo, to offer a public apology for the repression.A petition signed by as many as 63 different human rights and social justice organizations called the mayor of Quito’s to urgently declare a ZONE OF NO VIOLENCE in the premises and neighborhoods of Quito where 20,000 indigenous people are currently residing. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the following days.The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) confirmed the death of at least four people: Segundo Inocencio Tucumbi Vega, Marco Oto, Raúl Chilpe, José Daniel Chiluisa. The Human Rights Ombudsman confirmed in a press release that there are a total of 929 people detained and at least 554 injured, including several policemen. Indigenous groups have denounced acts of vandalism and have identified several infiltrators who are trying to seep distrust and violence in the mobilizations, while discrediting the mobilization.A moving public ecumenical funeral was held for Segundo Inocencio Tucumbi, held by members of the Catholic church and indigneous spiritual leaders. Leaders and family members of Segundo spoke with great emotion about the needless deaths of their loved ones, fighting for justice.Segundo’s coffin was symbolically carried on the shoulders of policemen who were detained by the indigenous movement and decided, by their own will, to remain in the popular assembly taking place at the Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Carrion, to reject the police repression from days previous.In a public ceremony, the eight policemen were handed over to members of human rights organizations, the ombudsman, and the UN headquarters in Ecuador. It was signal of peace and moral superiority that left Moreno in a delicate indefensible situation about the 60-day state of emergency and the repression that followed.
The entire event was transmitted live via social media by community journalists, such as Radio Iluman and Wambra Radio:
“We want to denounce to the world that we are no longer those indigenous people who were enslaved. Today we are educated and with all the capacities of administering this country. That’s why we are before the UN and the Human Rights Ombudsman, to turning in these policemen who were detained, not kidnapped as corporate media claims” said Jaime Vargas, president of the CONAIE.“If the national government doesn’t stop it’s violent acts, the people will have no choice but to respond. Hunger is also violence. Poverty is also violence. These economic measures are also violence,” said President of Ecuarunari, Carlos Sucuzhañay. “We are waiting for a peaceful government answer and the liberation of all those detained so far.”Indigenous organizations announced that the national strike and mobilizations will continue until President Lenin Moreno enters a dialogue with indigenous leaders. They are calling for a derogation of FMI-sponsored economic draconic measures and extractivist policies on indigenous territories, and for an immediate release of those detained. They are also asking for the Ministers of Defense and Interior to step down, but have come short from publicly asking Moreno to leave office. The indigenous movement does not want to be seen as pawns of Rafael Correa who has asked from Belgium, where he resides, for a new election so he can run again as a candidate for President of Ecuador.
“This is the consequence of all previous bad governments, but above all, former President Correa, who sold 10 years of oil in advance to the Chinese and Thailand, and as you know, Ecuador is a country absolutely dependent on oil, whose main economic income is oil. But we don’t have that income anymore, because Correa sold it for 10 years later,” said Patricia Gualinga, member of Women Defenders of the Rainforest and leader of the Sarayaku people, in a phone interview.
What Patricia is talking about is Correa’s deal with the Chinese government of committing to ship 90% of all its exportable crude through 2024, according to the LA Times, in exchange for a $6.5 billion debt.
October 12 marks 527 years since the genocidal invasion of Europeans on indigenous lands. It marks a date of deep intergenerational sorrow, remembrance, and today, of resistance.