QUITO – Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and the top leaders of the country’s indigenous movement launched on Sunday a dialogue to try and put an end to the massive demonstrations in recent days against the government’s elimination of the fuel subsidy.
The start of the talks, which are unfolding in private, came at facilities belonging to the Cardinal Spellman Salesian Educational Unit, a high school located in the Lumbisi zone, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) southeast of Quito.
The talks began with a minute of silence to remember the people who have died during the protests that began on Oct. 3.
The head of the indigenous movement, Jaime Vargas, asked Moreno to annul the fuel subsidy, saying that “we will remain firm and united” in the “unwavering commitment to defend our people.”
“It’s in your hands, Mr. President, to recover the homeland. We have as our responsibility the dignity of a country that recognizes us as its legitimate interlocutor. We’re not going to negotiate that dignity, we’re not going to negotiate our fallen!” said Vargas during the first dialogue session.
He added that “we hope that today a definitive and lasting solution may be found,” but he also noted that the decree eliminating the gasoline subsidy must be annulled.
Earlier on Sunday afternoon, the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference and the United Nations System in Ecuador had announced the postponement of the start of dialogue between the government and the indigenous movement due to the delay in resolving certain operational and security problems.
The two organizations, in a joint official communique, reported that the delay had resulted from “operational difficulties due to the situation” of social turmoil in the South American country stemming from the intense and violent demonstrations that have been under way since Oct. 3 after the Moreno government eliminated the subsidy on gasoline.
“The installation of the dialogue table scheduled for today at 3 pm will be postponed,” the sources had added in the communique.
Top leaders in the Conaie indigenous nationalities confederation, Ecuador’s most important indigenous organization, along with others such as Feine and Fenocin, will attend the dialogue sessions to try and “find a (mutually agreeable) solution” to the social conflict, according to the announcement.
In addition, the organizations said that the parties “have agreed that the meetings will be broadcast live” on television.
“Once we manage to establish the technical and security conditions for there to be a productive dialogue, we will inform society via this official channel,” the Episcopal Conference and the UN System said in their statement.
Simultaneously, the violent protests that took place in downtown Quito on Saturday were resumed on Sunday afternoon near the El Arbolito park, where the Agora of the Ecuadorian Culture House is located, that site being the place where the indigenous people in Quito have congregated to stage their demonstrations.
Police had to use a significant amount of tear gas to repel the protesters and enforce the curfew that the government imposed Saturday afternoon in Quito but which it has not been able to implement in a comprehensive way.
Ecuador has been beset by huge protests for the past 11 days since the Moreno administration eliminated the fuel subsidy as one of the preconditions for obtaining a $10 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund.