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Cablegate: Correa and Indigenous Leaders Talk, Agree to More Dialogue

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000873

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/10/08
TAGS: PGOV EC
SUBJECT: Correa and Indigenous Leaders Talk, Agree to More Dialogue

REF: QUITO 849

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather M. Hodges, Ambassador, State, ...


id: 228953
date: 10/8/2009 14:21
refid: 09QUITO873
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO849
header:
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000873

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/10/08
TAGS: PGOV EC
SUBJECT: Correa and Indigenous Leaders Talk, Agree to More Dialogue

REF: QUITO 849

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather M. Hodges, Ambassador, State, EXEC; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) Summary. After a week of protests and the death of one
indigenous protestor, President Rafael Correa and over 100
indigenous leaders sat down in Quito for a highly contentious
discussion resulting in a six-point agreement to talk more often
and about specific issues. The agreement calls for "permanent"
dialogue between the GOE and indigenous leaders, talks on changes
to the current Law on Minerals and proposed Law on Water,
discussions on possible reforms to the implementation of the
bilingual education program, and commissions to investigate the
death of the indigenous protestor and whether a radio station could
be held responsible for inciting the violence in Morona Santiago
province. Indigenous leaders returned to their home territories to
consult with their base, and the final protestors re-opened the
last of the closed roads. At the end of the day, Correa looks more
moderate by agreeing to dialogue, while the indigenous groups got
their meeting with the President. However, the indigenous leaders
may find that little of substance changes when the dust settles.
End Summary.

------------------------------------

Talking (and Yelling) about Dialogue

------------------------------------

2. (U) The dialogue between Correa and more than 100 indigenous
group leaders kicked off in the presidential palace at 3 pm on
October 5, although Correa himself arrived 45 minutes late. During
the four hours of heated debate, Correa and indigenous leaders
(many in colorful ponchos or feathered headress) traded barbs with
repeated interruptions, both sides accusing the other of lack of
respect, lack of consistency, and failure to abide by the new
constitution. Correa called some of the leaders "rightists" with
"golden ponchos" and accusing others of being uneducated and
manipulated. His audience responded by charging Correa with making
racist statements and ignoring his campaign promises. When Correa
left at 7:30 that evening, Vice President Lenin Moreno took over
for another hour of "dialogue." Shortly after 10 pm, the Secretary
of Peoples, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, Doris
Soliz, announced the six-point accord.

3. (U) The agreement, which Soliz says will be formalized as an
Executive Decree, notes first that the GOE will receive an agenda
of proposals from CONAIE to start a "permanent dialogue" on various
issues of concern to the indigenous movements. Both sides also
agreed to create a new system for selecting the authorities who
manage the nation's bilingual and intercultural education program.
The GOE and indigenous groups will both review drafts of the Law on
Water and attempt to reach consensus on a proposal within the
National Assembly committee that is currently reviewing the GOE's
initial proposal. In addition, the GOE and CONAIE will form a
joint commission to consider possible revisions to the extant Law
on Minerals. The final two points of the agreement call for
investigations into the violence in Morona Santiago province, with
a commission to investigate whether a Shuar radio station may have
been responsible for inciting violence during the demonstrations,
and another joint CONAIE-GOE commission to try to determine
responsibility for the death of protestor Bosco Wisuma in that
province.

--------------------------

To the Barricades and Back

--------------------------

4. (U) The strike called by the Confederation of Indigenous People
of Ecuador (CONAIE) on September 27 to protest the proposed Law on
Water initially fizzled in less than one day. Only a few hundred
protestors mobilized in any given location, and police were able to

reopen roads in most of the country after only a few hours (Ref A).
CONAIE's president, Marlon Santi, called off the mobilizations once
the government agreed to meet with his organization the following
day. However, the Confederation of Indigenous People of the Amazon
(CONFENAIE, part of the CONAIE federation) refused to lift the
strike and kept the road between the provinces of Pastaza and
Morona Santiago blocked. Correa then called off his dialogue with
CONAIE, suggesting that they needed to get their internal house in
order before they sat down with the GOE, and refused to open
discussions until the strike was completely lifted. On September
30, police in riot gear, but reportedly unarmed, moved to disperse
protestors on a bridge in Morona Santiago. The indigenous
protestors, apparently armed with shotguns and spears, allegedly
opened fire on police, injuring 40 police and killing one of their
own, a Shuar teacher named Bosco Wisuma.

5. (U) The killing of Bosco Wisuma, although reportedly an
incident of "friendly fire," galvanized CONAIE supporters and GOE
representatives alike. Correa reopened the calls for dialogue and
more indigenous organizations aligned themselves with CONAIE.
After a few days of demanding that Correa come to them in the
Amazonian provinces, and Correa insisting that his ministers would
start the talks without him, Correa, CONAIE and CONFENAIE finally
agreed instead to meet in Quito. More than 5000 indigenous group
representatives came to the capital to demonstrate in support of
CONAIE and its list of 25 demands. Police turned out in force, but
reportedly under strict instructions to keep the peace without
using firearms or any form of violence.

6. (U) Indigenous leaders within CONAIE arrived at the dialogue
with a list of 25 demands for the President, National Assembly, and
Constitutional Court. Most of the demands involved granting
indigenous groups autonomy within their territory; the option of
vetoing any proposed mining, petroleum, or resource extraction
activity in their lands; and requiring that all laws be passed by
consensus. CONAIE's leaders received little of what they asked
for, although they did gain agreement on the "permanent dialogue"
(the first item on their list), and won agreement to at least
discuss the contentious Law on Minerals and revisions to the draft
Law on Water.

-------------

Win-lose-tie?

-------------

7. (C) Correa's initial hard-line position and CONAIE's failure to
mobilize large groups and other indigenous organizations, as it had
in 2000 and 2005, appeared at first to indicate a significant
weakness in CONAIE's political base. Correa once again seemed to
have successfully divided his opponents. The death of Bosco Wisuma
appears to have shaken GOE and CONAIE leaders alike. One
interlocutor told Emboff that he had never seen Correa so diffident
or so visibly upset as he appeared on the evening television
broadcast after Wisuma's death. That the death of the protestor
was likely the result of weapons fired by other protestors (autopsy
results and eyewitness accounts both report that Wisuma was killed
by pellets, like those used in shotguns carried by the Shuar) has
also apparently divided the indigenous leadership and may have been
enough to get CONFENAIE to come to the table in Quito. The
apparent violence on the part of the Shuar in CONFENAIE also
appears to have damped any enthusiasm on the part of non-indigenous
groups to support the strike.

8. (C) Comment: Both sides have probably bought some breathing room
and will need to consult internally on next steps. Correa's
agreement to meet, even though some groups were still protesting,
demonstrated some flexibility on his part and may help convince
moderates that he can and will be reasonable. The indigenous
groups, on the other hand, received little of what they asked for,
and may discover that the laws in contention remain substantially

unchanged. CONAIE's leadership abilities within the indigenous
movement have been sorely tested, and it is not yet clear that they
can speak for their member organizations with any authority.
Correa and his government are unlikely to give up on their plans to
centralize authority over natural resources, despite the indigenous
opposition, given their need for the financial resources. End
Comment.
HODGES

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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