Ecuador: Government resumes talks as protests continue
By James Blears
Ecuador is still facing a crisis of indigenous protests as the crisis continues to divide the nation.
On Sunday, Pope Francis called on “all parties” in Ecuador “to abandon violence and extreme positions” as the country continues to see violent protests in response to rising food and fuel prices.
The Holy Father expressed his closeness to the people of Ecuador, while insisting that “it is only through dialogue that social peace can be achieved… with particular attention to the marginalized populations and the poorest, but always respecting everyone’s rights, as well as those of the country’s institutions.”
Representatives of Ecuador’s government and indigenous leaders restarted talks on Thursday in an attempt to step back and move away from protests in large parts of the country, with roadblocks still being used by more than 14,000 demonstrators in the capital Quito.
The Minister of Government, Francisco Jiminez, says the negotiations will be mediated by the Episcopal Conference, as tensions and tempers continue to fray.
Negotiations had started on Monday but were suspended the very next day, after demonstrators attacked a truck. One soldier died, and seven other soldiers, as well as five police officers, have been injured.
Attempting to restore stability
Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, has reacted strongly, stating activist Leonidas Iza is not able to control the people he represents as leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador. Indigenous peoples comprise half of the country’s population of seventeen million people. Lasso had lifted a month-long state of emergency in six provinces, but now he has reimposed it in four of them.
Jimenez is attempting to apply a measured approach, stressing that the aim must be to re-establish calm, stability, and peace via talks to find practical political and economic solutions.
Protests over rising costs
The protests started on 13 June in response to rising fuel prices and increases in the cost of living, along with the resulting poverty. Five people have died, while hundreds more have been injured and arrested.
The government has subsequently reduced the price of a gallon of gasoline by ten cents, but demonstrators say this is inadequate. They are demanding controls on spiralling food prices, job creation programs, and substantially more investment in health and education.
Meanwhile, during this current crisis, disrupted national oil production has halved and could grind to a halt.