QUITO – The indigenous movement in Ecuador is threatening the future of President Lenin Moreno, whose fate seems to have been left to the armed forces.
The Ecuadorian leader has faced his most critical moments since Monday after his arrival in office in May 2017, with thousands of indigenous people protesting in the capital and other cities in the country, which forced him to cancel recent cuts to meet the demands of the IMF.
Their arrival in Quito, to join other left-wing groups and unions that had protested since Thursday, has generated a wave of violence and looting unprecedented in years.
“We demand the repeal of the economic measures,” Guillermo Churuchumbi, mayor of Cayambe and former president of the Kayambi indigenous movement, told Efe in Spanish.
He added that for him the objective of the demonstration is to demand a dialogue and not for Moreno to leave his role.
But that is clearly not the case for a large number of the campaigners.
Cries of “Get out Lenin, get out” have been persistent over the past few days, and they were heard again when the protesters stormed parliament on Tuesday.
Churuchumbi said that the indigenous community, which represents 7% of the country’s population, has been being “stigmatized.”
Since 1990 indigenous people have acquired considerable political power in Ecuador and through their organizations have a capacity to influence beyond their representativeness in the population.
This is due to their idiosyncrasy, characterized by a high Andean spirit of resistance, collective decision-making and a strong convening power, which on the ground translates into a mass of tens of thousands of people willing to reach the objective defined by its communal leaders.
In their strategy they often block roads that connect cities to cause a progressive urban shortage and a national crisis.
This has been the case since Saturday throughout the country, when they obstructed several roads in the Sierra and forced the armed forces to intervene amid strong clashes.
The movement is guided by an energy based on the collective interests of different nationalities, 13 in total.
Protests have come to such a great concentration after years of frustration and division, and with the disappointment of what they considered broken promises by Moreno to preserve their ancestral lands.
Education, water, pollution, oil and mining are among the explosive components of a time bomb that seems about to detonate.
The president has extended his hand to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) on multiple occasions in recent days but has been rejected.
Analyst Santiago Basabe said that in addition to “outdated speech,” the indigenous leadership now also has the problem that it is increasingly difficult to separate from the violence “embodied in looting businesses and the destruction of public property.”
Conaie, founded in 1986, hoped to bring together around 20,000 members of this community in Quito on Wednesday.
Their struggle was added to that of trade unionist groups and political opponents who in recent days have come out to protest violently in different cities.
They were campaigning against a package of measures that include a rise in fuel prices, including diesel which is vital for any farmer and that affects indigenous people directly because 70% of them live in rural areas.
The indigenous protest movement has already proven its effectiveness two decades ago, when it led to the overthrow of then President Jamil Mahuad.
It also toppled Lucio Gutierrez and caused Rafael Correa a number of problems, especially after he decided in 2013 to open the Yasuni nature reserve in the Amazon to oil exploitation.
The big question is what will be its impact on the presidency of Moreno, which maintains support among the established classes and also the army.
How the demonstrations develop, the reaction of the state, the victims that could occur, and the social disorder that could be created in the following days, will be key for Moreno.