Cablegate: Mixed Views From Indigenous On Free Trade

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. Indigenous leaders are not all opposed to a
Free Trade Agreement (FTA); however, there is mounting social
opposition from some indigenous organizations and unions.
Starting October 1, various social groups will try to obtain
one million signatures to demand a referendum on whether the
GoE should negotiate an FTA with the US. On a different
topic, the leaders of indigenous groups FEINE and CONAIE both
believe that the extradition of corrupt Ecuadorian bankers is
crucial for the US to maintain a positive image in Ecuador.
Discussing Ecuadorian politics, neither spoke of calling for
a change in government. End summary.

Indigenous Views On FTA

2. On September 16, PolOff met with Marco Murillo, head of
FEINE, an organization of evangelical indigenous. Murillo
said he is friends with Minister of Trade Ivonne Baki. He
stated he is not opposed to an FTA but wants the Ecuadorian
public, including indigenous, to be included in the
negotiation process.

3. On September 17, PolOff met with Leonidas Iza, president
of CONAIE (Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of
Ecuador). Iza emphasized that he is not anti-US or against
free trade, but he feels Ecuador is not ready for an FTA at
this time. He feels that economic competition would be
unfair as the US is such a large power. He also believes an
FTA would take away Ecuadorian sovereignty, which he feels
has already been compromised by the presence of the Forward
Operating Location in Manta.

Call For A Referendum On FTA

4. Iza said that, starting October 1, CONAIE will work on
collecting a million signatures to demand a referendum on the
FTA. (According to the Article 105 in the Constitution, 8%
of the electorate's signatures are needed for a referendum.
One million votes represents approximately ten percent of
Ecuador's population.) Newspapers report that up to 30
organizations will participate in the collection of

5. Unions such as the CEDOCUT labor federation, led by
Mesias Tatamuez, also have voiced opposition to an FTA.
Union boss Tatamuez stated to the press that the FTA
negotiating team does not represent Ecuadorian society, but
only the economic sectors. According to the press, FENOCIN
(National Federation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black
Organizations) has called for Minister of Trade Ivonne Baki's
and the FTA negotiating team's dismissal. While FENOCIN has
asked CONAIE to participate in protests at the FTA
negotiating round in Guayaquil October 25-30, Iza said he has
still not decided if CONAIE will participate.

US Image Hurt By Hosting Bankers

6. Both Murillo and Iza raised the issue of corrupt bankers
living in the US who have not been extradited back to
Ecuador. Iza said that, by allowing them to reside in the
US, the USG is not helping Ecuador end corruption. Murillo
also echoed this statement and added that the US needs to
show in the Occidental Petroleum case (reftel) that we are
not just protecting our own interests, but that we support
impartial justice.

Views On Ecuador's Political Future

7. Murillo said that although FEINE does not support Ecuador
President Lucio Gutierrez, they will not try to get rid of
him. He said they would join CONAIE in political
mobilizations if there is a clear goal; however, they are not
looking for a change in government. (Murillo was not
referring to FTA protests but instead to previous CONAIE
mobilizations). He said they would try to influence the GoE
with a "transparent voice."

8. Iza mentioned the three things he wants for Ecuador -
transparency, foreign investment (Iza feels there is a public
misperception that he opposes it) and an end to corruption.
Concerning the upcoming October 17 municipal elections, Iza
feels that Pachakutik will gain some posts.


9. By mounting large protests, the indigenous and other
social groups could disrupt the next round of FTA
negotiations in Guayaquil, slated to begin October 25.
Worse, should CONAIE and its allies succeed in obtaining one
million signatures and forcing an FTA referendum, a clear
display of no confidence in Gutierrez's chosen economic
track, the GoE might reconsider the value of continuing free
trade negotiations. CONAIE has enjoyed little success lately
in organizing mass protests, however, and Iza's talk appears
more bluster than fact. On corrupt bankers, Murillo and Iza
seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of criticizing the US.
The leaders are ignorant of the complexity of the cases and
of the GoE's poor response to continuous USG requests for
needed information.

© Scoop Media

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