The centre, north and Andean parts of Ecuador are paralysed by an ongoing protest against a Free Trade Agreement the Ecuadorian government is currently negotiating with the USA. The rising called by Connaie, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples or Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas, has been extremely effective. Major roads in 10 out of 22 provinces have been blocked by the protesters using improvised barricades of tree trunks, stones, mud and used tyres.
The demands of Connaie are the immediate breaking off of the negotiations between the Ecuadorian government and the US on the free trade agreement, the nationalisation of the oil resources, the expulsion of the American petroleum Occidental and the calling of a constituent assembly.
These demands are a repetition of demands brought forward by the indigenous population and the oil workers during a general strike in the summer of 2005. Then the government declared a state of emergency and send the army in to quell the uprising. The oil strike ended after Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez promised to fulfil Ecuador’s obligations in delivering oil to the United States.
This time the protest of the indigenous population has spread to more provinces and the government has not yet responded with equal force although papers report that three protesters have been killed and 16 wounded.
The Ecuadorian interior minister, Alfredo Castillo has resigned. He is the third interior minister to resign in the last 11 months. The official declaration quotes personal reasons for his resignation. No doubt his resignation is an attempt by the government to appease the protesters. The government also called an emergency meeting with the managers of state and commercial television stations to remind them to behave with ”responsibility” and not to report on strikes, protests or blockades “because these acts are meant to destabilise democracy”.
Eduardo Cholango, president of one of the strongest indigenous organisation Ecuarunari, declared in an interview for radio Quito that the indigenous people are ready to resist the signing of the Free Trade Agreement until they get a clear answer from the President of Ecuador. “We are ready to resist for one week, two weeks, or maybe a month because we know that the signing of the free trade agreement means they (Imperialism) will run off with our national production.
Ecuador has now seen nearly 10 years of repeated protests that have removed presidents and governments but have not significantly changed the conditions of the working masses. This latest struggle shows the potential strength of working people but without the formation of a workers and poor peasants’ government that will end capitalist exploitation there will be no fundamental solution to the miseries facing the mass of Ecuadorians.