Cablegate: Indigenous March in Quito Against Fta

Published: Mon 21 Nov 2005 04:30 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. (U) Summary: Approximately 1,000 indigenous from the
provinces participated in mobilizations on November 16 and 17
organized by indigenous organization CONAIE against the free
trade agreement (FTA) and the US-owned Occidental petroleum
company, and in favor of a constituent assembly. Protest
leaders were received by President Alfredo Palacio on the
evening of November 17; Palacio said he would not sign an FTA
that went against Ecuador's interests, agreed with the need
for a popular assembly, and said he was already taking action
against Occidental petroleum. Indigenous leaders also
expressed their opposition to an FTA and support for a
popular assembly in meetings with the Ambassador. Eduardo
Delgado of the anti-FTA social movement "Ecuador Decides"
told us on November 18 that his group would lead large-scale
marches if an FTA is signed, but not put to a referendum.
Delgado doubted any popular assembly would take place given
the vested interests of political parties. End Summary.
Indigenous March and Meet with President
2. (U) Indigenous leader and vice president of ECUARUNARI
Raul Ilaquiche told PolOff on November 18 he estimated 10,000
indigenous from outlying provinces including Cotopaxi and
Tunguragua had marched on November 17, however, Embassy and
police estimates were closer to 1,000. As of November 18,
only 300 indigenous remained in Quito's Arbolito Park and
were expected to march on the same day to the presidential
palace. Evangelical indigenous groups did not participate in
these protests.
3. (U) President Palacio met with approximately 50 of the
indigenous protesters in the presidential palace on the
evening of November 17 in a meeting that lasted several
hours. During the meeting, CONAIE head Luis Macas asked
Palacio to not sign the free trade agreement and asked for
Occidental petroleum to leave the country immediately.
Palacio told indigenous that if, for example, FTA
negotiations on agriculture and intellectual property did not
reach desired results, then "clearly we'd have to say, we're
not signing." Ilaquiche told PolOff he predicted a "social
convulsion" if Palacio signs the FTA.
4. (U) Palacio told indigenous that he agreed with them on
the need for a constituent assembly. Ilaquiche said
indigenous groups would like a constituent assembly to decide
all foreign treaties including an FTA, and also to review
treaties already signed in the past, including the Manta
agreement. On Occidental petroleum, Palacio said the company
had been given 60 days notice to respond to alleged contract
violations, saying that he was "complying totally with the
interests of his country."
5. (U) Ilaquiche told PolOff that the clear message from
Palacio was that he would not betray the interests of the
Ecuadorian people. However, Ilaquiche said that indigenous
groups were not yet satisfied; while they had returned to the
provinces, they would see what happened, and be prepared to
protest again.
Indigenous Share Concerns With Ambassador
6. (SBU) Indigenous leaders Gilberto Talahua and Leonidas
Iza told the Ambassador on November 8 that they differed with
the USG on the FTA and other issues, and supported a national
assembly. Indigenous leader and former FM Nina Pacari, while
agreeing on the need for a popular assembly, told the
Ambassador on November 15 that currently the atmosphere was
too negative and that cool heads were not prevailing. Pacari
believes an assembly is needed because the current Congress
does not act with legitimacy, in part because political party
representatives are incapable of self-criticism.
Social Groups Oppose FTA, Want Assembly
7. (SBU) On November 18, PolOff met with Eduardo Delgado of
the social movement "Ecuador Decides" which claims to include
200 social groups as members. (Note: This is the same group
that said last year it would collect the signatures necessary
to force a referendum. That effort resoundingly failed, but
Delgado is viewed as one of the main leaders of the
anti-Gutierrez "forajido" movement.) Delgado said that his
group, formed a year ago, believes that the signing of a free
trade agreement should be decided "democratically," by
referendum. He said his group had been protesting against
the FTA daily in front of the presidential palace since
November 14. Delgado believes that an FTA would damage
Ecuador in health and agriculture. Delgado said he would
support a "fair" US-Andean free trade agreement, with the US
lifting agricultural subsidies and limiting pharmaceutical
patents. He also said the FTA should not be concluded until
decisions on agricultural subsidies are made by the WTO at
its upcoming meeting in Hong Kong. Delgado said that under
current conditions, Ecuador should not sign an FTA and the
GOE should subsidize those industries that would lose ATPDEA
trade benefits (e.g. duty free cut flowers, textiles, and
pouch tuna) when they expire in December 2006.
8. (SBU) Delgado said he did not believe a constituent
assembly would happen. Neither Palacio nor Congress really
want an assembly, he said. Instead, they want to be
perceived as taking action on reform to placate popular
sentiment. Delgado said he would like to see a constituent
assembly with full powers to help revitalize Ecuador's
institutions and pass laws that political parties with vested
interests currently block. As to who would serve on the
assembly, he believed it should include some members of
political parties, and that other representatives should be
decided by the public, not just by other social groups with
their own vested interests such as labor unions.
9. (SBU) Delgado said that after FTA negotiations concluded,
there would be an outburst of public protests nationwide,
including those led by his group. He also predicted many in
the agricultural sector believe they would not benefit from
an the FTA and would protest on a wide scale. He said these
social movements could force the Congress to act on the issue
of the popular assembly.
10. (SBU) The final round of free trade agreement
negotiations is giving social groups a cause to rally around.
Thus far, the number of protesters on the street has been
underwhelming. Past anti-FTA efforts have also been
short-lived. However, under the right circumstances, massive
numbers of people are not necessary to force dramatic
political change here. (Witness the fall of former President
Lucio Gutierrez in April which succeeded with media, middle
class Quito protesters, and opposition political support, but
never more than 50-70,000 in the streets.) Social groups and
indigenous are also calling for a popular assembly, yet one
looks unlikely, further adding to social frustration.
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