Once again, an indigenous and popular uprising in Ecuador has given light and hope to continental struggles for dignified life. Over the past days, women, children and elders from the diverse nations and indigenous communities in Ecuador have paralysed highways and carried out assemblies in their communities, neighbourhoods and cities. These dignified women and men, who live in the middle of the world, have risen up to recover and take back their country, their present and their future, which is under threat once more by the same elites as always, allied to the predatory right-wing patriarchs that monopolise political life.
With the declaration of a national strike and an indigenous uprising, they have created a powerful space of discussion that questions the nefarious Decree 883, which dictates austerity measures, the most obvious of which is a dramatic increase in the cost of fuel. “If the price of gas rises, everything gets more expensive; transportation and food get more expensive,” said one indigenous woman into a microphone in front of a crowd of mobilised community members in the Cotopaxi region.
Communities in the mountains, in the Amazon and along the coast are standing up together. Through their speeches, posters and songs, they are producing a plurality of meanings and weaving rejection to the issues that affect them: resisting poverty, resisting being subjected to the economic measures and agenda of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and stopping the extractive regime that is destroying their collective wealth.
As part of this powerful uprising, which is connected to strikes in the cities, the calling up of historic indigenous struggles for land and water, and against oil and gas camps and mining projects, which sow misery wherever they operate, is clear. In Ecuador, we can tell that a long-term struggle has been activated because while today we see that effort and energy are devoted to rolling back economic austerity, the power of the indigenous and community struggle demonstrates the frustration of the people with state aggression against their communities.
State of emergency declared
On 5 October, the government of President Lenín Moreno declared a 60-day state of emergency to avoid demonstrations, gatherings and public actions. In response, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), together with members of the Popular Front and the Unified Workers’ Front, responded: “Don’t play with fire, the destiny of 17 million people is at stake.”
In the days following, the Conaie announced that indigenous communities have also declared themselves in a state of emergency, and said that they will not allow the police or the army to destroy the homes of those they detain, or to mistreat women and children. Their communiqué makes clear that anyone found taking part in human rights violations will be brought before indigenous justice.
The communities that are rising up are doing so with the aim of re-establishing the order of communal life. Indigenous justice does not threaten or contradict the Constitution, nor does it allow rights and guarantees that have been won through organisation to be ignored in such an arbitrary and crude manner. The state of emergency, through an indigenous lens, is against the detention of more than 477 people, the attacks on many others and the killing of one.
The images from Ecuador that are spreading around the world today show the decision and the energy of the youth, of children, of women and elders. These images have profoundly moved indigenous people throughout the continent. The speeches of indigenous leaders in Ecuador have been seen thousands of times on social media. Their speeches are expansive, they nurture indigenous struggles and, at the same time, they include cities in their demands.
Students around the country have also powerfully spoken out. The green kerchiefs from recent feminist struggles for legal abortion can also be seen in the images of the demonstrations in the cities, as organised women add their voices and bring with them the capacity to sustain a strike.
The cacerolazos (pots and pans demonstrations) convened by women’s collectives force us to take note of the double workday and the exploitation of women through unpaid work. It also demonstrates how the paquetazo (series of economic reforms ordered by the IMF) will impact them. Urban women recognise the dignity of community struggles and seek to add their voices, their screams of frustration, by self-organising to take the streets.
On 8 October, at the barricades in the Pastaza region, the people demanded the resignation of Moreno; in other parts of the country, interior ministry buildings have been occupied. The indigenous movement entered Quito from the south, receiving support and solidarity from working-class and impoverished neighbourhoods, who joined them to chant: “Join in, pueblo, join the struggle against this government that is against us.”
Social organisations represented by workers’ unions and others in the cities planned to join in the massive national strike on 9 October. An Indigenous uprising is, once again, at the heart of the struggle, opening a horizon of re-appropriation in the face of an attempt to expropriate all of the peoples of Ecuador. The indigenous mobilisation calls for the generalisation of protest actions so that the struggle can grow stronger.
This moment of struggle is a moment to re-appropriate strength and self-determination, a time of rebellion towards the production of a renewed sense of struggle, woven together with diverse voices that warn, clearly and firmly: “Not Moreno or [Rafael] Correa, not [Guillermo] Lasso or [Jaime] Nebot! The struggle is ours!” This makes clear that this uprising will not end in new alliances between power brokers or in other kinds of patriarchal pacts.
On 7 October, Moreno moved the seat of his government to the coastal city of Guayaquil. His actions remind us of the nervous and fearful priests and bureaucrats during the colonial period, who hid in walled houses and called for military aid, fearing the moment that Indians in resistance would, in the words of Bartolina Sisa, “reign again”.
From our communities, from the cities we live in, we are and will continue to follow and express solidarity with what is taking place in Ecuador. The strength of indigenous communities nurtures ours. We raise our voices together and show our support for popular and indigenous resistance. Here and there, we resist being overseen by the state, and we yell once again that we are moved by a desire to change every single thing.
¡Nos queremos vivas, libres y desendeudadas en todas partes! We want to be alive, free and without debt, everywhere! ¡Que se sigan tejiendo entramados comunitarios y populares de lucha! May community weavings of popular struggle continue to be woven! ¡Que siga creciendo la dignidad! May dignity continue to flourish!
Gladys Tzul Tzul, Guatemala; Raquel Gutiérrez, México; Claudia López, Bolivia; Mariana Menéndez, Uruguay; Noel Sosa, Uruguay; Veronica Gago, Argentina; Luci Caballero, Argentina; Jovita Tzul Tzul, Guatemala; Ita del Cielo, México; Victoria Furtado, Uruguay; Siboney Mora, Uruguay; Dunia Mokrani, Bolivia; Claudia Cuellar, Bolivia; Silvia Federici, United States; and Dawn Paley, Canada.