Contacts are “for the moment” at a standstill, and the demonstrations will continue, says the leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the country’s largest indigenous organization and spearhead of the demonstrations.

Q/How long will the protests last?

R/(…) Until we have results. We can no longer contain the anger of the people. Outrage is beyond our control and the control of our organizations. It is a very complex moment.

We expected the president (Lasso) to respond to the central questions of the crisis, to the poverty that our people are experiencing. There is a decision to be made. We have always shown our willingness to dialogue. What elicited a reaction from us was this dialogue without result, we feel cheated, that is what provoked indignation.

Q/Have you had any contact with the government?

A/Not at the moment. We said we don’t want middlemen. What we want are guarantors of this process who oblige the government to respect its commitments.

It’s not possible that in the 21st century we have to come here and have dead people for them to understand us.

Q/What is the impact of the cost of living for natives?

A/ The economic question is a question of desperation, that is why we are here. There is a lot of poverty, the rise in the price of fuel has made all the prices go up, and we, the poorest, are the ones who suffer the most.

Imagine a liter of petrol, which we bought at 1.50 dollars, which we now have to buy at 3.50 dollars. We have no salary, what we produce in the fields, we sell it on the markets at the same prices for 15 years, we are under the influence of the market, of intermediaries.

We don’t even have enough to feed our children, but at the end of the month we have to pay all the credits to the bank.

This is why the Ecuadorian population is demonstrating, it is not a stroke of madness or stories of vandalism. Many of our young people are recruited by drug traffickers and contract killers because they are offered economic options.

R/What do you think of President Lasso?

R/ In 2017, he was the one who called for struggle, the one who incited the indigenous movement to uprisings, he was the one who in the rallies harangued us and called us to fight. Now he rules. He went to the other side and implements violence against the demonstrators (…). It is really painful to see that after being a social fighter, he is now attacking his people.

Q/Do you want to reverse it?

A/ Our main objective is to solve our economic problems. What if President Lasso falls and nothing changes? We have not come to destabilize. We came to get results.

Q/ Aren’t you worried that the protests will arouse resentment in certain sectors?

R/Yes, there is fear, it has deepened the class struggle. There is a racism that has been exacerbated since 2019. There are sectors that simply call us vandals and do not see that this struggle is about daily living conditions and that the worst off are the indigenous people.

Rural poverty is alarming. Between 60% and 70% of the natives had to abandon their community. The majority live in absolute poverty, (…) while the cultural identity of the natives is lost and deteriorates. Some policies of the colonial state attacked the identity of (indigenous) peoples. (…) We are gambling on our survival.