The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) the National Ecuadorean Federation of Campesino and Indigenous Organizations (FENOC-I), and the Evangelical Federation of Indigenous Ecuadoreans (FEINE), called upon their grassroots communities to rise up in protest to the "Agrarian Development Law" presented by the Social Christian Party, and passed by congress without the 15 days of debate required by the constitution. Their main demand is that the law be overturned.
A year ago, the Indigenous and rural population of Ecuador presented to congress (through a congressman) an alternative Agrarian law proposal that took into account the needs of the rural population. This proposal was sent to a comission of congress and was virtually ignored.
The Social Christan Party's law, the indigenous orginization's claim, soley represents the interests of large land owners and agri-business. It directly challenges, they claim, indigenous rights to small farms, credits, and even the communal way of life, In the Amazon, the new law promotes colonization in the rainforest.
To protest the Agrarian Development Law hundreds of thousands of Indians have closed strategic points in the panamerican highway, preventing the transportation of products to the cities, and refusing to bring their own produce to market. In some towns government buildings were taken over, and thousands filled the streets in marches.
In the Amazon, along with the road blocks, 4 oil wells were taken over by indigenous communities and production was halted for days. Other social sectors, including the largest unions (FUT and IESS) have joined the protests in solidarity with the indigenoeus organizations.
After a week of protests, tensions began to run high as the scarcity of food was felt, and on the 10th day, President Dur n asked for a dialogue with the Indigenous leadership.
All of the provinces involved sent delegates to meet with the President, but they were disappointed as the government refused to discuss overturning the law, and suggested forming a commission to discuss reforms.
The indigenous delegates decided the protests must continue, and in response the President decreed a State of Emergency, giving the armed forces free reign to do whatever necessary to stop the peaceful protests. Below are some examples of the violence incited by the anti- mobilization actions.
In the meantime, the indigenous leadership continued to pursue the legal process by appealing to the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarrantees , which, on June 23, agreed that the law is unconstitutional, and sent the case to the Supreme Court. So far, the President has refused to accept the pronouncement of the Tribunal.
Indigenous leaders state that they have tried, and continue to pursue, legal means, but that until now, only mass protests allows their voice to be heard. Only by refusing to provide food to the cities, they say, will the government understand that by doing away with the small farmers who produce food, they will leave the country hungry.
Examples of Violence in the Provinces:
1. Cotopaxi: The indigenous radio station is invaded by the military, equipment destroyed, two vehicles and radio equipment are taken, and the radio annoucer, Alma Montoya, is arrested.
2. Tungurahua: Marco Manabanda and Lorenzo Masaquiza are both shot and killed, and the indigenous radio station is shot at .
3. Chimborazo: A violent military parachute operation leaves two critically injured and many other wounded, and 500 iindigenous are violently forced out of a convent.
En Achupallas, the military used bombs to force out protesters, leaving many wounded and asphyxiated.
Two indigenous radio stations are invaded by the military and shut down as well as the offices of the indigneous organization.
4. Ca$ar: Gangs led by the Social Cristian Party provoke looting and burning of the indigenous organizations offices, killing Manuel Jesus Yupa and wounding 35 more.
Racism is encouraged by the Party and local government. The indigenous radio station is closed. Also, military personnel have entered indigenous communities, causing injury by kicking indigenous people, hitting them with the butt ends of their rifles, and using tear gas. There have also been a number of disappearances of indigenous peoples.
5. Sucumbios: Violent military actions in Limoncocha leave David Andi shot and critically wounded, ten others injured, and possibly two others killed.
We ask that you please send letters of support and demand that the President withdraw his troops, and most importantly that he accept the ruling of the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees.
Send Faxes to:
President Sixto Dur n Ballen
President of the Consitutional Section of the Supreme Court 011-593-2-508-470
Thank you for your support.
(Written June 24, 1994 in Native-l by Robert Andolina, email@example.com.)