Ecuador's national indigenous alliance CONAIE announced an "indefinite" paro (general strike) June 13, in response to a sudden jump in petrol prices. Things escalated the following day, when prominent CONAIE leader Leonidas Iza was arrested at Pastocalle, Cotopaxi province, where he was apparently participating in a blockade of the Panamerican highway. He was held at a military base at Latacunga, but released the next day following angry protests over his detention and a CONAIE call for "radicalization" of the campaign. Roadblocks are reported in at least 14 of the country's 24 provinces, including Pichincha, where the capital Quito is located. CONAIE has presented the government of President Guillermo Lasso with a list of 10 demands. These include, in addition to a drop in fuel prices, a moratorium on new oil and mineral leases, and reparations to communities impacted by extractive projects. (Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, EFE, El Comercio, Quito; El Universo, Guayaquil)
Two indigenous leaders in Ecuador who successfully fought against mining on their ancestral lands were awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize for environmental activism on May 25. Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narváez of the Cofán indigenous people organized patrols, and used drones and camera traps to document gold mining operations within their traditional territories. Their evidence was crucial in securing a legal victory that resulted in 324 square kilometers (125 square miles) of rainforest being protected from mining.
Ecuador's trans-Andean Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) ruptured amid heavy rains Jan. 28, spilling oil into a sensitive area of Napo province and contaminating several rivers draining into the Amazon Basin, including the Napo, Piedra Fina, Quijos and, most seriously, the Coca. The contamination also penetrated Cayambe-Coca National Park. Pipeline operator OCP Ecuador didn't announce that it had stopped pumping through the stricken line until the following day, and at first denied that any waterways had been contaminated. This was repudiated in a statement from the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONFENIAE), which cited reports from impacted Kichwa communities.
Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Nov. 18 extended the country's state of emergency by a second 30 days. The decree is ostensibly an attempt to combat the insecurity generated by drug-related crime and re-establish public order. It provides for the mobilization of military forces in certain provinces to assist the functions of the National Police in several provinces.
Hundreds of indigenous protesters rallied outside the offices of Ecuador's National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito Feb. 23 to demand a recount of the presidential vote. Third-place finisher Yaku Pérez of the indigenous-based Pachakutic party, eliminated from the run-off election to be held in April, led a week-long cross-country march of his supporters from Loja province in the south which repeatedly blocked traffic on the Pan-American Highway before arriving in the capital for the rally. He then led a delegation to the CNE office, carrying boxes with more than 16,000 statements purporting to show irregularities. At the demonstration, his supporters chanted, "Transparency yes, fraud no!"
Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauz of the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory Feb. 7, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. (The Guardian, Al Jazeera, CNN, El Comercio, LexLatin)
Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The nationwide death toll in Brazil has soared above 11,000 amid growing anger at President Jair Bolsonaro's dismissive response. The situation is particularly bad in the Amazon gateway city of Manaus, where the number of fatalities is feared to be many times the official 500 to 600. Peru and Ecuador also have large outbreaks and significant Amazonian indigenous populations.
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.