Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

In Ecuador, Broken Promises and Calls for an “Indigenous Uprising”

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August 9 marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In Ecuador, hundreds will mark the day in protest, as a march convened by CONAIE, the country’s chief Indigenous organization, is making its way to Quito from the far southwestern corner of the country. CONAIE, or the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, has also called for an “Indigenous uprising” against the government on August 10, but President Rafael Correa has denounced the march, saying a majority of Indigenous Ecuadorians support his administration’s policies, which have faced popular backlash in recent months and have eroded the president’s traditionally high levels of support.

Indignation with Correa’s policies points to a perception of broken promises from a president who came into office with considerable support from groups who now find themselves on the opposition, namely Indigenous coalitions and labor unions. The Indigenous Ecuadorians marching roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) are a prime example of this shift, which has occurred gradually since Correa entered office in 2007. The marchers, set to arrive in the capital on August 13, are demanding that the government abandon efforts to push through constitutional reforms allowing indefinite presidential reelection, among other issues.

Correa is currently serving his third term in office and has enjoyed high levels of support throughout his tenure. But the president who came into power on an anti-neoliberal platform has been losing support. In June, after a government-backed inheritance tax plan prompted large-scale protests, a Cedatos-Gallup poll measured Correa’s approval at an all-time low of 46 percent. Correa gained popularity with Indigenous voters during his presidential campaign for being able to communicate in Kichwa and for pushing for wider inclusion of Indigenous rights in the country’s constitution. “I will never fail you,” Correa told a crowd of supporters during a Quechuan swearing-in ceremony in a town where he had worked in his youth. 

According to many Indigenous Ecuadorians, however, the president who promised a “citizen’s revolution” hasn’t lived up to this promise. But the nature of a twenty-first century Indigenous uprising is unclear, and the extent that CONAIE’s demands will be heeded remains unknown. However, rising opposition to the Correa administration means that the country’s historically marginalized Indigenous groups may find their demands accepted by a larger portion of the country than expected.

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