Eye on the Amazon

Ecuador's Indigenous Movement Achieves Important Victory as Violence Stopped and Austerity Decree Repealed

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

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Last night, in an unprecedented public dialogue between the indigenous movement and the Ecuadorian government, President Lenin Moreno announced the repeal of Decree 883, ending an eleven-day strike that paralyzed the country and was met with brutal police repression against indigenous peoples. The annulment of the decree, an economic austerity package that dramatically cut subsidies and unilaterally imposed labor concessions, was a central demand of the indigenous movement, along with an end to oil and mining extraction.

A United Nations-mediated commission of government and indigenous representatives will work on a new plan to supplant this decree. The existing measure had cut subsidies on gasoline and diesel fuel, which would have resulted in immediate and massive increases in the prices of all basic goods and services, creating an excessive burden on Ecuador's poorest populations. Any new measures, according to Amnesty International must be "developed and implemented in a manner consistent with international human rights law. This includes ensuring that austerity measures are temporary, reasonable, and proportional; exhausting less restrictive, alternative measures; and ensuring the genuine participation of affected persons and groups."

The agreement to repeal Decree 883 and end the national strike on the eve of Indigenous Peoples Day is a major triumph for indigenous peoples. With great sacrifice and resilience, Ecuador's indigenous movement spoke truth to power and would not stand down or give up hope for nearly two weeks despite enduring some of the worst state violence in decades.

Mirían Cisneros

During last night's dialogue, Mirian Cisneros, President of Sarayaku – the only woman to address President Moreno and the government during the meeting – said "How can we talk about 'development', when our territories where we've lived for hundreds of years are being exploited, are being auctioned off, turned into new oil concessions. This undeniably affects us! That's why, as Amazonian women, we have come to ask you, Mr. President, to put yourself in our shoes. Put yourself in our mindset. In the face of everything that is happening in Ecuador, we ask you – with all your heart – to heed our call."

The current dialogue between the government and indigenous movement is a historic moment to restore peace. It will be a long road to justice and respect of indigenous rights and territories and a just economic transition away from dependence on the extractive industry, but this is a start. Much of the lasting impact of today's victory will depend on the details of what new agreement emerges in place of Decree 883. It will also depend on the government's commitment to the broader agenda of the indigenous movement and accountability for the brutal violence, repression, and rights violations carried out by the state over the last eleven days.

There must be justice to have peace. Ecuador has a new opportunity to truly be a plurinational state that guarantees the economic, social, and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, as established in its constitution, and implement international human rights treaties to which it is signatory and which it willfully ignored during the strike.

The indigenous uprising against austerity measures and new oil and mining extraction is a call for a new model of development, similar to a Green New Deal, that puts indigenous rights, life plans, and solutions at the forefront, along with other visionary concepts guaranteed by their constitution, including the rights of nature and buen vivir) which all lay the groundwork for a just transition to a post petroleum economy. This is a moment ripe with possibility for Ecuador finally to move away from pervasive inequality and a toxic, debt-fueled, boom-to-bust oil economy and towards a better future for all Ecuadorians.

Thanks to everyone who responded to this crisis by taking action, spreading the word, or donating to the emergency humanitarian relief fund. Efforts to assist in the aftermath and continue the indigenous resistance to extractivism across the Ecuadorian Amazon will continue.

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