Indigenous Protesters in Ecuador
The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, lifted a state of emergency imposed as a response to mass protests by Indigenous protesters in Ecuador on June 26, 2022. The demonstrations, beginning on June 13, 2022, were in opposition to the high prices of gasoline and agricultural products and a low education budget. Six civilians have died as a result of them. Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), has been spearheading the movement and met with President Lasso in late June 2022.

Ecuadorian Indigenous Organizations: CONAIE

According to the International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), around 1.1 million Ecuadorians are Indigenous and 24.1% of them live in the Amazon. Fourteen Indigenous groups live in Ecuador, including the A’i Cofán, Shiwiar, Siekopai and Chachi.

There are many Indigenous organizations in Ecuador. However, CONAIE is the most involved in these Indigenous protests in Ecuador.

In 1986, the organization started operating in Ecuador’s capital, Quito and cited “the continuous struggle of the communities, centers, federations and confederations of Indigenous peoples” as the reason for its existence. Since then, the organization has become known for its direct action and uprising. In 1996, CONAIE famously formed its political movement called the Pachakutik/Nuevo País after halting alliances with other political movements and candidates. Leonidas Iza, who has been representing CONAIE in government dealings, currently leads the Indigenous group.

Poverty and Prices

Poverty in Ecuador has significantly risen in 2022. Among the country’s population of 18 million, 35% live in poverty. Additionally, poverty is commonly and historically found among Ecuador’s Indigenous people, sometimes attributed to discrimination. In 2006, the United Nations Population Fund reported that some 88% of Ecuador’s Indigenous households live under the poverty line.

As aforementioned, recent Ecuadorian protests by members of the country’s Indigenous populations result from high gasoline and agricultural product prices and low education and health care budgets.

In recent months, Ecuadorian fuel prices have distinctly increased. Before President Lasso made adjustments, standard gasoline cost $2.55 a gallon (40 cents higher than neighboring Colombia’s price) and diesel $1.90 a gallon.

Agricultural product prices, another point of protest, have been rising since the end of 2021. Fertilizer prices have also been increasing, potentially leading to less agricultural production and income heading to farming households.

The Ecuadorian educational budget has been declining since 2019, currently at a mere 11.5% of government expenditure and is comparably lower than neighboring South American countries (Colombia is at 14.5%, Bolivia at 14.2%).

Ecuadorian Government Response

Indigenous protesters in Ecuador agreed with their country’s government on the subjects of protest and fuel prices in late June.

After lifting the state of emergency he imposed and the beginning of talks between his government and Indigenous leaders, Ecuadorian President Lasso cut fuel prices– but not to the degree CONAIE wanted. He decreased petrol and diesel price per gallon by 15 cents, whereas the Indigenous organization called for a 45-cent decrease per gallon of petrol and a 40-cent decrease per gallon of diesel, Al Jazeera reported.

Furthermore, CONAIE leader Iza signed a deal with the Ecuadorian government that aims to lower fuel prices, among other costs, limit oil expansion and prohibit mining in protected areas and cease protests. Iza announced the suspension of protests after signing, according to Al Jazeera.

Although the nearly two-week-long protests in Ecuador caused more than 150 arrests, stunted transport and led to at least six deaths, they have amounted to a deal between Indigenous protesters and the Ecuadorian government, hopefully bringing peace and security into the country.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr