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Indigenous groups seek to recover political leadership
11/17/2003
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Pachacutik elects new leadership and calls for protests against the government.

Four months after the rupture with the government of President Lucio Gutiérrez (LP, Aug. 13, 2003), the Ecuadoran indigenous movement is seeking to recover its leadership with the purge and tight control over its political movement, the Multicultural Pachacutik Movement.

The III Pachacutick Conference held Sept. 26-28 in Riobamba, capital of Chimborazo, in central Ecuador, was the scene of negotiations aimed at reaching a consensus to strengthen the movement.

A first step was the election, by a unanimous vote, of Gilberto Talahua as new general coordinator, in replacement of Miguel Lluco, who had led the movement over the last four years.

Talahua, 34, is considered part of the hard line within the National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). With a leftist bent, he is the son of farmers of the Kichwa community Simiatug, in central Bolívar province. The community was subjected to domination by mestizos and mistreatment by big landowners for several decades. He studied education at Bolívar State University, is a former regional coordinator for Pachacutik and served as president of the Simiatug community in 1997. In 1998, he was elected a deputy to the National Congress for Bolívar province.

"Pachacutik will participate without alliances in the sectional elections of 2004," Talahua said in his first statement after being elected. He was referring to elections next year for mayors, provincial prefects and councilors in provinces and villages. He said those who failed to carry out the mandate given them by the indigenous peoples in the alliance with Gutiérrez will be punished as well as the members of Pachacutik who have not abandoned official posts.

Talahua is conscious of the fact that he is receiving a weakened movement but he understands clearly that Pachacutik needs to return to its roots. "My commitment is to overcome the isolation into which (Pachacutik) leaders fell. We will regain power with the (support) of the masses," he said.

In the same way, the new coordinator announced that he will talk with other indigenous movements such as the Evangelical Indigenous People Federation of Ecuador (FEINE) and the National Federation of Campesino, Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadoran Organizations, and with movements of craftspeople, vendors, nationalist businessmen and other productive sectors that identify with Pachacutik’s political program. This program, he said, is based on the application of indigenous principles of good government: do not steal, do not lie and do not be lazy; and the implementation of an administrative framework based on reciprocity (communal work) and complementarity (contribution of specific individuals in the construction of a communitarian government).

To consolidate the new executive committee of Pachacutick, César Cabrera of the Campesino Social Security Confederation was named sub-coordinator as well as nine spokesmen, three from each region (coast, sierra and jungle). They will seek in the next two years to recover the credibility of the indigenous movement and consolidate local power, neglected in order to favor the governmental alliance.

The presentation of reports of the last two years, including the alliance with Gutiérrez, was rejected by the majority of the 533 representatives.

"As a delegate from the Amazon, I could not let a report saying everything was a success be read," said Mónica Chuji, when it became evident that two basic elements would not be mentioned: the trust of the Ecuadoran Electric Company (EMELEC), which banker Fernando Aspiazu — in jail for bribery — entrusted to Lluco and the performance of indigenous leader Fernando Buendía, who as a Ministry of Economy adviser participated in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and which led CONAIE and Pachacutik to defend the economic measures adopted by Gutiérrez at the start of his mandate (LP, Feb. 12, 2003).

Lluco defended himself by saying that his leadership was based on "transparency and honesty" and that having accepted the trust of EMELAC helped it "uncover the corruption of past administrations."

The delegates to the Congress demanded the expulsion of Lluco and other indigenous leaders who had occupied government posts, in spite of the prohibition to accept them while being in the Pachacutik leadership.

Although the congress did not take action on the leaders in question, an ethics commission was formed to analyze these cases and the situation of the militants that did not abandon their posts after the rupture of the alliance with the government.

The new leaders asked the participants to maintain an opposition stance to the government and to hold demonstrations, although no dates were mentioned.

"The dates are a secret," said CONAIE president Leonidas Iza, "to avoid government intervention or a boycott by other sectors."

 


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Gilberto Talahua (center) is c
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