Indigenous nations in Ecuador declare “state of exception,” denounce neoliberal and extractivist policies on sovereign lands

In a stunning act of defiance, the largest indigenous organizations in Ecuador—CONAIE and CONFENIAE—declared a “state of exception” on sovereign indigenous lands, to reject military and policie presence on their terrorities and the right to detain such forces if they were to illegally enter or use repressive tactics on their lands. They did so after President Lenin Moreno’s government declared a national 60-day “state of emergency” and called out the military to quell down a national strike called on October 3 to protest IMF-imposed economic measures (“paquetazo”) that will end gas subsidies, effectively doubling the price of gasoline and creating a dangeorous inflationary situation that will hurt the most vulnerable populations.

CONAIE: estado de excepcion CONFENIAE: estado de excepcion

Indigenous and social movements are on their sixth day of resistance against IMF-measures, an economic crisis, and aggressive oil and mining extractivist policies that begun with Rafael Correa’s government, which left the country in terrible debt and huge concessions made to Canadian, Chinese, and other powerful transnational corporations. The national strike began with support from transport unions, but Moreno’s successfully negotiated with union leaders to raise bus and taxi fares and somehow “make up” for the end of gas subsidies.

#ElParoNoPara, "This mobilization is without Lassos, Nebots, Morenos, or Correas. We will apply indigenous justice to any infiltrated or opportunist political figure." Photo credit: CONAIE

However, indigenous and social movements on the ground have declared that the strike must go on, since the fare hikes would only worsen the situation and do not address the economic crisis, the incoming inflation, and extractivist policies that have been at the core of ongoing clashes between indigenous nations and the central government. Such clashes begun over a decade ago under Correa’s government.

Thousands of people from every province have come out to protest, blocking out main roads and highways, and effectively putting a halt to the country. Military and police forces have come out to quell the protests, arresting over 400 people, with dozens injured, creating scenes of chaos and violent repression, as can be clearly seen on their social media accounts and according to human rights organizations such as INREDH.

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Photo credit: CONFENIAE

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Such acts led main indigenous organizations to declare a “state of exception” in their territories, many of them detaining military and police members to apply “indigenous justice” and negotiate the release of their loved ones. A regional court quickly ordered the release of two prominent indigenous leaders, Jairo Gualinga and Marlon Santi, recognizing the right of people to peacefully protest:

Jairo Gualinga y Marlon Santi arrestados

Jairo Gualinga and Marlon Santi during their arrest and after their release. Photo credit: Red de Jóvenes Indígenas

To pressure the government to derogate Decree 883, an estimated 15 to 20 thousand of people from indigenous territories began walking towards Ecuador’s capital, Quito, yesterday, October 7, and are planning to organize meetings towards a big mobilization on the capital October 9. In late September, indigenous organizations had already called their bases for a large protest against oil and mining on their territories, on October 14, to mark the Day of Indigenous Resistance, and after negotiations with Moreno’s government were unsuccessful.

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President Lenin Moreno has responded by rolling in military tanks into the city, while a US State Department diplomat, Michael Kozak, has declared the US is “closely following the events in Ecuador,” according to El Comercio, rejecting “violence as a form of political protest,” and congratulating the Ecuadorian government for taking measures towards “sustainable economic growth.” Such measures, according to IMF’s website dedicated to Ecuador include “internal devaluation,” “reigning government spending,” “less rigidity in wages and prices,” “reviewing the system of taxation and removing obstacles to business formation,” “encourage private investment,” “make the country an attractive business destination,” and other measures familiar to any country around the world that has faced similar severe neoliberal practices.

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Vicky Tauli, is urging the Ecuadorian government to refrain from the excessive use of force, respect human rights, and engage in a intercultural dialogue with the population.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please visit the following indigenous media: