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Cablegate: Indigenous Federations Focusing On Economy

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: In the second month following the ouster of
ex-President Gutierrez, indigenous groups are biding their
time on the political front and focusing on economic
concerns. FEINE, representing Ecuador's evangelical
indigenous, is waiting for the new government to stabilize
and for earlier backlash over its alleged support of
Gutierrez to subside. Leaders of CONAIE, Ecuador's largest
indigenous organization, have been in contact with Minister
of Economy Correa, but have not yet met with Palacio himself.
They support Correa's social spending agenda and are wary of
the Andean Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but appear willing to
dialogue. End Summary.

FEINE Avoiding Political Confrontation

2. In a June 14 meeting FEINE President Marco Murillo told
PolOffs that until Palacio's government stabilizes, he is
planning to avoid the political arena as much as possible.
Murillo explained that because of FEINE's perceived support
of Gutierrez, he is in a no-win situation. If he meets with
members of Palacio's government he will be labeled an
opportunist, but if he comes out against them he will be seen
as resentful. As a compromise, he is doing neither. Since
Gutierrez's ouster, CONAIE has taken back control of DINEIB,
the bilingual education division of the Ministry of
Education, but Murillo is not planning to fight CONAIE on
that front. He is disillusioned with the way bilingual
education has become completely politicized, saying that was
not the original intention. At this juncture, there have
been no efforts at dialogue between FEINE and CONAIE, but
Murillo says that if necessary, he is willing to step down as
FEINE president to allow for a more open discourse between
the organizations, should CONAIE ask for dialogue.

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CONAIE Wary of USG Economic Policies

3. CONAIE VP Santiago de la Cruz, in a June 15 meeting with
PolOffs, seemed convinced that Gutierrez would not return,
despite much speculative media buzz on the issue. CONAIE
seems content enough with the Palacio administration,
especially new Minister of Economy Correa. They have met
with him, and are in favor of his social spending agenda. De
la Cruz wondered aloud why the USG is not in accord with
Correa's policies, and said there was a general perception
that the USG views indigenous movements as a serious threat.
He is also afraid of the FTA being imposed on the people of
Ecuador, without their opinions being taken into account.
Despite this view, De la Cruz was open to hearing the USG
position on the current political situation in Ecuador, and
wanted more information on potential benefits of the FTA to
Ecuador's indigenous.


4. These meetings with leaders of CONAIE and FEINE reveal a
divided indigenous movement caught in the same morass of
chronic political instability as the rest of the nation. The
indigenous organizations' current focus on economic issues,
as opposed to political ones, has both positive and negative
aspects. On the positive side, they are open and interested
in dialoguing with the USG and learning more about the
benefits of the FTA. The flip side of that is that both
FEINE and CONAIE are skeptical of free trade, and CONAIE may
try to use its new-found political space under the Palacio
government, and possibly its contact with Econ Minister
Correa, to fight the FTA. FEINE suggested, however, that the
USG could win potentially useful indigenous goodwill through
more development projects. Overall, we are pleased by both
organizations' openness to dialogue and interest in USG
views, and will continue to work with these contacts in the
future. We will also provide information to them to counter
common Ecuadorian misperceptions about free trade and what is
sound economic policy.

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