Cablegate: Indigenous Organization Elects New Head

Published: Tue 28 Dec 2004 07:22 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities
of Ecuador (CONAIE) on December 23 elected Luis Macas
president of the organization, a post he previously held
twice. Macas, a former Minister of Agriculture and an ethnic
Saraguro indian from the south of the country, will lead the
organization until 2007 and replaces Leonidas Iza.
Postulated by the highlands-based ECUARUNARI and supported by
the coastal CONAICE organization, Macas is expected to
maintain distance from the Gutierrez administration and its
Minister of Social Welfare, indigenous leader Antonio Vargas.
Pro-government Amazonian indigenous were accused of
attempting to disrupt the Congress as well as of threatening
indigenous leaders. Biographical information is included in
paragraph 10. End Summary.
Macas Wins, Santi Offers Support
2. Macas, with 300 votes, defeated Marlon Santi, the
candidate of the Amazonian indigenous federation CONFENIAE,
who received 181 votes, at the CONAIE congress on December
23. Macas is considered to be part of the older generation
of indigenous leaders, with a great deal of experience within
the indigenous movement. After the vote, Santi expressed his
support for Macas, quelling fears of further division within
the organization. Santiago de la Cruz, a coastal Chachi
indian and member of the CONAICE, was elected vice-president.
Amazonians will hold posts in the International Relations
and Natural Resources divisions.
3. According to press reports, as a candidate, Macas said
his priority would be the creation of a plurinational state
and he emphasizes the process of "interculturality,"
including bilingual intercultural education. Macas believes
the country should look for alternatives to the Free Trade
Agreement with the U.S. Macas pledged to work closely with
the base organizations to strengthen currently weak ties, as
displayed by the disappointing indigenous anti-government
mobilizations earlier this year. Macas has said he will not
enter into dialogue with the current government.
Mobilizations and Other Topics Discussed
4. A total of 1070 delegates attended the congress including
regional delegates from 30 indigenous nationalities and
domestic and international observers. The congress featured
debates on the current political situation, GoE energy
policy, education, indigenous nationalities, and statute
reform. On December 22, CONAIE leaders discussed a future
mobilization to protest Congress' dismantling of the Supreme
Court and the government's referendum. CONAIE leaders feel
this call for mobilization will have a greater response than
the two Leonidas Iza organized earlier this year.
Divisive Elements Removed From Congress
5. On December 20, Jose Quenama of CONFENIAE was expelled
from the congress for promoting violence and for his ties to
Antonio Vargas. Fifty Quenama supporters tried to get
Quenama's name on the ballot for president despite his not
having support from the bases. According to the CONAIE
website, the group then removed cables from computers to
impede registration for the congress. Representatives of six
of the ten nationalities within CONFENIAE voted to remove
Quenama from CONFENIAE which he previously headed. Many
leaders of the Cofan, Siona, and Secoya nationalities left
the congress, in support of Quenama.
6. CONAIE members also accused Quenama of aiding the
government's effort of creating divisions within the
organization. On December 23, a small group of Quenama
supporters met in Quito to create a CONAIE 2, with support
from the government. Bolivar Gonzalez, Undersecretary for
Social Welfare and the primary advisor to Minister Antonio
Vargas, also made a statement concerning rebuilding CONAIE.
According to the press, Quenama said his supporters reject
Macas' victory as they feel the electoral process was
illegal, since Quenama was not allowed to participate as a
candidate for the presidency. Quenama said Macas will not be
allowed to travel to Amazonian territory.
Candidates Allegedly Receive Death Threats
7. On December 20, Leonidas Iza, the CONAIE's
then-president, accused the government of a campaign of
intimidation against indigenous leaders. Iza said that many
leaders had received threats over the telephone. Santi, the
CONFENIAE candidate, said to the press that he received
anonymous phone calls on December 21 and 22 threatening that
if he were elected CONAIE president, he would be dead within
24 hours. Santi said his lawyers planned to file a complaint
with the OAS' Inter-american Commission on Human Rights,
accusing the government of ordering the threats. According
to the press, Santi also claimed Quenama offered him $25,000
in order to support the latter's candidacy.
CONAIE Issues Manifesto
8. During the congress, CONAIE issued a manifesto, published
on its website, expressing its rejection of the alleged
intentions of the government, the PRE party, the PRIAN party,
and the U.S. "to annihilate and destroy all the social and
popular organizations in the country." CONAIE accused the
"treasonous and dictatorial government of Lucio Gutierrez, in
complicity with a reduced group of opportunist followers of
Antonio Vargas and Jose Quenama bought by the government, of
attempting to boycott the congress and create a parallel
congress." CONAIE called on the Ecuadorian people to stay
alert to the GoE's increasing dictatorial bent.
9. Macas stood out as a strong candidate during the congress
and, with the support of his challenger Santi, seems to enjoy
a certain legitimacy. Pro-government indigenous, on the
other hand, were discredited by the majority of CONAIE
members and are increasingly isolated. They will no doubt
continue to attempt to organize, but their reputation seems
to have been tarnished. Macas appears confident that he will
have greater success mobilizing the indigenous, and a future
attempt to organize a protest of the recent dismantling of
the Supreme Court is possible. We will attempt to reach out
to Macas and open lines of communication with the Embassy.
Macas so far does not seem to spew as much anti-U.S. rhetoric
as his predecessor Iza; however, CONAIE's latest manifesto
expresses great suspicion of the U.S. End Comment.
Bio information
10. Luis Macas, a member of the Saraguro ethnicity (part of
the Quichua group), was born on June 3, 1950 in Saraguro,
Loja province. Macas studied anthropology at Quito's
Catholic University, jurisprudence at the Central University,
and linguistics, also at Quito's Catholic University. In
1978, Macas was part of a group of 12 indigenous leaders who
sought a meeting of representatives from Ecuador's three
regions: Sierra, Amazon, and Coast. This meeting was not
held until 1980, after the fall of the dictatorship, and was
a first step towards the first CONAIE congress held in Quito
in 1986. In 1986, Macas became head of communications for
CONAIE and released its first newspaper, "Indian
Nationalities." In 1988 he became vice-president and in 1990
became president of the organization. Macas was reelected
president from 1993-1996. In 1996, he became a Congressional
deputy and worked to promote the passage of the Indigenous
Nationalities Law and the creation of the Indigenous Fund.
In 2003, he held the post of Minister of Agriculture during
Pachakutik's alliance with Gutierrez' government. Currently
he serves as acting rector of the Intercultural University of
Indigenous Nationalities and Pueblos "Amawta Wasi" and is
director of the Scientific Institute of Indigenous Cultures,
posts which he is expected to relinquish in order to head
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