[WSMDiscuss] (Fwd) "The eco-territorial turn" by new environmental justice movements in Latin America (Maristella Svampa) Re: debate over Ecuadorian eco-left/extractive-left strategy continues: Atawallpa Oviedo Freire v Boaventura de Sousa Santos Re: (Fwd) Ecuador update and analysis from Pablo Ospina

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Apr 1 17:40:02 CEST 2021

  The eco-territorial turn in Latin America: a conversation with
  Maristella Svampa


By Maristella Svampa

/This is a translated interview conducted by Johannes Waldmüeller, from 
the original video available //here/ 

[00:00] Thank you for being with us. The first question is, tell us a 
little bit about the actual situation of the eco-territorial and 
eco-social conflicts in Latin America. And, related to it, what is its 
relevance in the global context in times of fake news, in times of new 
populisms that arise everywhere in the world.

[00:22] Well… First of all, it has to be said that there has been an 
expansion of socio-territorial, socioenvironmental and eco-territorial 
conflicts in Latin America. And there is a phase of exacerbation of the 
extractivism within the conservative and neo-liberal framework, that is 
expanding in the whole region, or at least an important part of the 
region. In continuity with the previous phase, but an exacerbation phase 
that can be seen very clearly with the expansion of the energy frontier 
with fracking, offshore fields, oil sands, with the emergence of 
territorial crimes (01:00) linked for example to illegal mining, and 
also the biggest repression that we can witness is against environmental 
activists. [01:12] Let us not forget that Latin America, is the place in 
the world where the most environmental activists are assassinated per 
year. In 2016 and 2017, approx. 200 activists were assassinated in the 
world, of which 60% in Latin America. [01:28] This is a very worrying 
phase, in which, what we experience is a retraction, a setback, in terms 
of democracy. This heated moment of human rights violations goes hand in 
hand with an increasing repression.

[01:43] Secondly, with respect to the global situation, well, I read it 
more with a socioecological lens. We have entered a new era, the 
Anthropocene, in which humankind has taken a role of global reach and 
geological relevance, right? And the extractivism and neo-extractivism 
are an expression of the Anthropocene, of this socioecological crisis of 
global scale. And I think that in these times of a turn to Rightist 
politics in terms of discourse, it’s good to keep in mind that this new 
political grammar supports the ecoterritorial fights, which aim at a 
fairer society, at a different relation between humans and nature, that 
is a new environmental rationale and also a new process of 
democratization of decision-making. [02:35] And I think that these new 
concepts of horizons are related to a new political order, and these 
open up toward a new type of society.

[02:45] And, in this context, what is the role of, in your opinion, 
traditional academia, in terms of teaching and researching?

[02:51] Well, let’s see, there are a lot of things to say. First of all, 
with respect to ecoterritorial conflicts, there is an expert knowledge, 
independent from the hegemonic vision, from corporations’ power, and 
also from the state discourse, that has spread in Latin America and has 
therefore being accompanying these fights. There is a dialogue of 
knowledge in which we participate as intellectuals coming from academia, 
which implies on one side the construction of the problematic through an 
interdisciplinary lens, because these are very complex problems. [03:28] 
Secondly, this implies a connection, a link, a respect towards local and 
ancestral knowledges. However, this a minority line in what is the 
varied world of academia, and especially the mainstream in which the 
hegemonic vision predominates and where, furthermore, there is no 
openness to debating development models. In this line, I think that our 
function, as public function intellectuals, is to put these demands on 
the agenda, these big social debates and try to give visibility to these 
fights and these new horizons that are being outlined behind these 
fights. [04:12] This is a very asymmetric fight, not only in the fields 
where these fights evolve, but also in academia. And, yet, the hegemonic 
knowledge has a great capacity to deactivate criticism stemming from 
intellectuals who challenge these models of development. In Argentina, 
clearly, it’s seen when it comes to criticizing the agribusiness, or the 
soy model that is the heart of the economy, then all the powers join 
forces in order to disqualify those scientists or intellectuals that 
challenge it.

[04:52] Thank you very much.

No, please, thank you.

Key Concepts (excerpts taken from: “The ‘Commodities Consensus’ and 
Valuation Languages in Latin America 
by Maristella Svampa, available on 

      Extractivism and Neoextractivism:

Extractivism, in a nutshell, refers to postcolonial national economies 
heavily based on export-oriented resource extraction by the use of 
foreign capital and know-how. Neoextractivism entails a reinforced 
extractivist model, yet under a scheme of governmentally controlled 
re-centralization and nationalization of these industries or resources, 
higher export taxes and the establishment of “compensatory” politics 
through increased social and infrastructural spending.

Amongst all the extractive activities, the most controversial today in 
Latin America is large-scale metal mining. Indeed, there is no country 
in Latin America with large-scale mining projects that does not have 
social conflicts — that bring communities into conflict with both mining 
companies, on one side, and governments, on the other — associated with 
them: Mexico, several Central American countries (Guatemala, El 
Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama), Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, 
Brazil, Argentina and Chile. According to OCMAL, there are currently 184 
active conflicts, five of them cross-border, involving 253 affected 
communities across the region. This context of social unrest contributes 
directly or indirectly to the judicialization of social-environmental 
struggles and to the violation of human rights that in several cases, 
including Peru, Panama and Mexico, have ended in the murder of activists.

      Commodities consensus:

The expression ‘commodities consensus’ has not only an economic but also 
a political-ideological connotation. It alludes to the idea that there 
is an agreement — tacit, although with the passing of the years ever 
more explicit — on the irrevocable or irresistible nature of the 
contemporary extractivist dynamic. This is particularly so considering 
the concurrence of the increasing global demand for primary goods and 
the current wealth levels, amplified by the /‘eldoradista’ /vision of 
Latin America as a place with abundant natural resources /par 
excellence/.The confirmation of Latin America as an ‘adaptive economy’ 
in relation to the different accumulation cycles, and thus the 
acceptance of the place of the region in the world’s division of labour, 
is located at the core of both the Washington Consensus and the 
commodities//consensus. This remains the case regardless of the 
industrializing and emancipatory rhetoric of progressive governments in 
the region asserting the economic autonomy and national sovereignty or 
the construction of a political Latin American space. In the name of 
‘comparative advantages’ or the pure subordination to the global 
geopolitical order, depending on the case, progressive and conservative 
governments alike tend to accept the ‘destiny’ of the ‘commodities 
consensus’. Svampa is therefore interested in highlighting that, despite 
the differences in the political regimes existing today, the ‘consensus’ 
on the irresistible character of the extractivist approach ends up 
working as a historical horizon or threshold annulling the possibility 
of a debate on alternatives. The acceptance — tacit or explicit — of 
such a ‘consensus’ contributes to consolidating a new ideology of 
scepticism or resignation that strengthens, on its limits, the 
‘sensibility and rationality’ of a progressive capitalism, imposing the 
idea that there are no alternatives to the current style of extractivist 
development. Consequently, every critical discourse or radical 
opposition is ultimately perceived as anti-modern, a negation of 
progress or simply in irrationality and ecological fundamentalism.

      Eco-territorial turn:

In this context, the explosion of socio-environmental conflicts has 
corresponded to what Enrique Leff named “The environmentalisation of the 
indigenous and peasant struggles and the emergence of a Latin American 
environmental thought”. Within this social grid we can also find new 
environmental social movements, rural and urban (in small and 
medium-sized localities), which have a multi-class composition and are 
characterized by assembly-like types of governance and an increasing 
demand for autonomy. At the same time, some environmentalist NGOs — 
particularly small organizations that combine lobbying activities with a 
social movement logic, and cultural collectives, including those of 
intellectuals and experts, women and young people — play a significant 
role and accompany the actions of organizations and social movements. 
These actors should not be considered as ‘external allies’ but as 
stakeholders within this organizational and social grid.

In this context, what is particularly novel is the articulation amongst 
the different stakeholders (indigenous-peasant movements, 
socio-environmental movements, environmental NGOs, intellectual and 
expert networks, cultural collectives) which translates into a dialogue 
of knowledge and disciplines. This fosters the emergence of an 
expert-knowledge independent from mainstream, dominant discourses and 
the valuation of local knowledge, many of which have peasant-indigenous 
roots. These /valuation languages /of territoriality have promoted the 
approval of laws, even of legal frameworks, oriented toward the 
construction of /new environmental institutional frameworks /opposing 
the current extractivist public policies.

In general terms, and beyond specific differences (depending largely on 
the local and national contexts), the dynamics of socio-environmental 
struggles in Latin America have taken what we have called an 
‘eco-territorial turn’. This entails a common language that illustrates 
the cross-over between the communitarian-indigenous matrix, defense of 
territory and environmentalist discourse: the commons, food sovereignty, 
environmental justice and /buen vivir /are some of the terms that 
express this productive engagement.

In sum, what Svampa calls an eco-territorial turn refers to the 
expansion rights as well as a societal dispute as to what could or 
should be understood as ‘true development’ or ‘alternative development’, 
‘weak or strong sustainability’. At the same time, it puts concepts such 
as sovereignty, democracy and human rights at the centre of the debate: 
in effect, be it in a language of the defence of the territory and the 
commons, of human rights, of the collective rights of indigenous 
peoples, of the rights of nature or ‘/buen vivir’,/ the demand of the 
communities is inscribed in the horizon of a radical democracy. This 
includes the democratization of collective decision-making and, indeed, 
the rights of peoples to say ‘no’ to projects that strongly affect the 
quality of life of the most vulnerable sectors of the population and 
compromise the livelihood of future generations.

On 3/19/2021 6:42 PM, Patrick Bond wrote:
> March 14, 2021
> Atawallpa Oviedo Freire
> Andean Philosopher, Founder of Movimiento al Buen Vivir Global, 
> Director of Escuela Superior Alteridad
> The original Spanish text was published in /Alteridad/, 
> https://www.alteridad.net/2021/03/14/respuesta-a-la-carta-abierta-de-boaventura-de-souza/ 
> <https://www.alteridad.net/2021/03/14/respuesta-a-la-carta-abierta-de-boaventura-de-souza/>.
> Dear Boaventura,
> I’ve read several times, with great sadness, your “Open Letter to Two 
> Young Indigenous Ecuadorians” [1], in which, once again, and without 
> intending to, you end up supporting progressivism. This, despite the 
> fact that you say you are critical of it and do not want to provide 
> advice. Like other decolonial thinkers, such as Dussel and Grosfoguel, 
> who have also supported Latin American progressivism and who, in the 
> same way, without intending to, remain Eurocentrics, even though they 
> say they are not or say that they question it.
> The hegemony of Western perspectives, in their right-wing and 
> left-wing (especially the left-wing self-named progressive) 
> manifestations are resistant to losing their conceptual and factual 
> privileges. The progressive faction has fought against us [the 
> Indigenous movement] more aggressively than the right wing, supposedly 
> the antagonist side. Progressive people in Latin America have 
> persecuted, criminalized, and assassinated us, and you are asking our 
> people to be masochists and vote for them so they can continue these 
> abuses. Neither the right-wing, nor the monarchists before, managed to 
> divide the Indigenous movement in these 500 years as have the 
> exponents of Socialism of the 21st Century, and you tell us that the 
> progressives are our allies. Ironically, in the right-wing governments 
> we were stronger and more unified, until the right-wing’s progressive 
> faction came into power to divide and dismantle us. And you are asking 
> us to repeat this history.
> You reminded us in your letter what the Stalinists did to all who 
> questioned them, under the argument that they had to defend the 
> revolution in spite of its mistakes. And you saw how that turned out, 
> so as to recognize that it was a mistake to support the Stalinists. 
> This is the same case now, but you are asking us to forget what 
> happened in all of the worldwide history of the left, with its 
> persecutions against those who disagreed with their dogmas, under the 
> argument that the right-wing’s neoliberal faction and imperialism are 
> the real danger. The truth is that, for us, both sides are dangerous, 
> and it is not obvious which is the most dangerous. Both are 
> self-defeating, not only for humanity but for life as a whole, because 
> the extractivist model is maintained and reproduced regardless of 
> whether the left or the right holds power.
> In the end, it seems that you have joined the global network of 
> progressives, echoing the same Stalinist discourse. You say that Yaku 
> Pérez supported the coup in Bolivia. You only did not add that Yaku 
> was in agreement with Janine Añez and that he supported the deaths of 
> Senakaba and Senkata, which is the full narrative of the Correist 
> discourse that you have accepted uncritically. You should have 
> substantiated your claims, proving that Yaku supported the coup. So 
> far nobody I have challenged has been able to prove it. Yaku, just 
> like Mallku Quishpe, and many of the Indigenous and social movements’ 
> leaders, and even in a way Choquehuanca himself, criticized Evo 
> Morales for his eagerness to stay in power forever and for rejecting 
> the results of the referendum in which the Bolivian people, including 
> those in the MAS political party, told him that he should make way for 
> someone else.
> Are we to suppose that the rejection of the referendum was not also a 
> coup against democracy? Who began to do coups? Did you criticize that 
> coup? Did you criticize blocking the alternation of power that 
> Indigenous philosophy demands? This is something that, after Añez’s 
> coup, Morales himself recognized, that he erred in his idea of 
> perpetuating himself in power. And, given that it appeared that he won 
> that election by fraud, something that has not been demonstrated that 
> it did not occur, the victory of MAS in the last elections does not 
> necessarily confirm that there was no fraud. Yaku criticized all of 
> this, but you are repeating what the Correists are saying.
> In the whole letter you criticize Yaku, and you only neglected to say 
> that he is part of the right wing, even though you indeed say that 
> Pachakutik supported the right-wing’s neoliberal Lenin Moreno regime. 
> Prove that, too. Indeed, there were a few members of Ecuador’s 
> legislature who supported certain projects, but they were questioned 
> and criticized by Pachakutik. But you are repeating the Correist 
> narrative that Pachakutik was allied with Moreno, and in doing that 
> you are joining an international network of progressives in the dirty 
> campaign against the Indigenous movement and, in particular, against 
> Yaku, as Salvador Schavelzon has demonstrated [2].
> We in the Indigenous movement and the left fought for several years 
> against the corruption of the Correist progressives, much more than 
> did the right, and now you are also trying to sell to the public the 
> story of “lawfare.” And what do you think of what Correism did when it 
> “stuck its hands in the justice system”, as Correa himself said? Is 
> that not also “lawfare”? You cite Alberto Acosta in your letter. You 
> should read all that he has written about Correism, and also the three 
> great books by several intellectuals who wrote about it, of which 
> Acosta was one of the editors. These are in addition to the number of 
> books that we have produced individually about the implications of 
> Correism, which are not about the great advances that you highlight. 
> Furthermore, the right-wing governments of Colombia, Panama, and 
> Paraguay reduced poverty much more than Correa.
> When you were in Quito, six years ago, and you personally met with 
> several intellectuals, we explained to you the situation that we were 
> going through, but this did not have a substantial effect. Since that 
> encounter, I felt that you did not completely understand our struggle. 
> Time has confirmed that, as you have always ended up aligning with the 
> side of progressivism. Your letter to which I am responding here makes 
> clear what your position is and confirms once more that we are on 
> different paths.
> We are on different paths because we have two different ways of 
> understanding reality and how to live. I am part of those who function 
> with the ancient collective rationalities and “pensasientos” 
> [thought-feelings], which remain alive and latent in the majority of 
> the planet, in spite of the “epistemicide” that Eurocentrism has tried 
> to accomplish but has not succeeded, not even in Europe where the 
> Indigenous Celtic movement is reviving. I don’t know if you know it, 
> it would appear that you don’t know about it in detail, but what is 
> certain is that you do not produce your reflections from the point of 
> view of the Awen or Druid philosophies of the land of your birth. This 
> collective philosophy from Indigenous Europe is beyond the 
> “epistemologies of the South,” and is consistent with Indigenous 
> philosophies from all over the world, since there is no major 
> difference between the Celtic philosophy and the Inca, Maya, Hindu, 
> Chinese, Bantu, and other philosophies.
> To not speak from the perspective of an ancient 
> collectively-constructed philosophy is to speak from a Eurocentric 
> vision, or more precisely a Hellenic one, which the Greeks 
> systematized and called civilization. This is a paradigm that the 
> Christianized Romans imposed on the Indigenous cultures of Europe, and 
> which the civilized or indoctrinated Europeans have continued to 
> reproduce, but which the Celtic movement is now challenging.
> But the majority of European intellectuals of the left still have not 
> taken them into account, as is also the case in the rest of the 
> Western world and its satellites, in which all speak from a 
> Eurocentric vision of the left or right. For this reason, right-wing 
> and many left-wing movements criticize the Indigenous philosophies, or 
> look down on them because they do not know them, and, above all, 
> because they do not function from those ontologies and epistemes.
> And hence, all over the world these left movements ridicule this 
> ancestral knowledge, with labels of Pachamamism, Abyayalism, 
> Essentialism, Ethnicism, Culturalism, Fundamentalism, and lately even 
> Fascism. And in the present case, they also speak of movementism, 
> suggesting that it has fallen into apoliticism, which makes clear that 
> they do not know the Ecuadorian Indigenous movement very well. And it 
> appears that they think the same of Zapatismo, that it is just a 
> movementist action of the NGOs funded by the Global North.
> So, we the Indigenous people of all colors from all of Mother Earth 
> have risen up to reclaim /sumak kawsay/ (Abya Yala), /Ubuntu/ 
> (Africa), /Swaraj/ and /Tanxia/ (Asia), /Awen/ (Europe), to mention a 
> few concepts, all of which could be translated into English as 
> “everybody living in harmony under the sky,” as the ancient Chinese 
> say. It is from the perspective of these ancient collective 
> epistemologies that we speak and interpret our reality, and that is 
> the difference with all the rest who speak from the perspective of the 
> Eurocentric epistemologies of the South and North, some more and 
> others less but after all Eurocentric, and I think there still remain 
> in you some leftovers from Eurocentrism.
> They are Eurocentric because they do not make their criticism from the 
> point of view of an epistemology that has been developed collectively 
> by the peoples themselves, but from their individualist particularism 
> formed in the Eurocentric paradigm and not from the serious study of 
> the non-Western philosophies. That is to say, they have not taken a 
> collective turn to speak from epistemologies and ontologies built over 
> thousands of years, but speak from constructs shaped by individuals or 
> by small groups created in the interior of the West.
> Ultimately, progressivism is part of that, which is the postmodern 
> expression of the media and academic sectors that seek to displace the 
> social movements (especially the Indigenous movement) or co-opt them 
> to be under their social-democratic or even Christian Democrat 
> tutelage, under the heading of “New Left.” For that reason, we’ve been 
> clashing, because we are no longer following the Eurocentric path of 
> “Socialism of the 21st Century,” but are contesting its conceptions 
> and horizons. Because they want to keep having us only as a mass base 
> or Indigenist or feminist or environmentalist or popular arm. And 
> because we have taken up a struggle which is no longer only about 
> class or morality (as they want it to be) but is an ontological and 
> trans-civilizational struggle. This is what is behind one position and 
> the other.
> ***
> https://alicenews.ces.uc.pt/index.php?lang=1&id=33485 
> <https://alicenews.ces.uc.pt/index.php?lang=1&id=33485>
>         *
>         *
>         *Open letter to two young indigenous Ecuadorians*
>         AN Original
>         2021-03-15
>         By Boaventura de Sousa Santos
>         <https://alicenews.ces.uc.pt/index.php?lang=1&id=33452>**
>         <https://alicenews.ces.uc.pt/index.php?lang=1&id=33449>*
>         My dear young friends
>         I appreciate the time you have spent conversing with me over
>         these past few weeks, discussing the election process now
>         underway in your country. As I told you then, I was truly
>         perplexed by the international controversy among the various
>         party families on the left regarding that process. To recap:
>         It seems like a case of the cunning of reason that in recent
>         weeks the political process unfolding in Ecuador – a country
>         located, as its name suggests, at the center of the world –
>         has become the arena of a fierce dispute between intellectuals
>         and activists on the left, not only from Ecuador but also from
>         other countries in Latin America, Europe, the US, South Africa
>         and India. The reason for the argument is the ongoing
>         presidential election process.
>         The winner of the first round, albeit without an absolute
>         majority, was Andrés Araúz, who represents, to a certain
>         extent, a return to Correismo (a term used to describe the
>         years of Rafael Correa’s rule, from 2007 to 2017). Guillermo
>         Lasso, who represents the oligarchic right, was second (after
>         a few recounts), and Yaku Perez, an indigenous candidate from
>         the Pachakutik movement, was third.
>         At first, the conflict focused on possible electoral fraud,
>         which had allegedly robbed Perez of second place. But the
>         legal-electoral debate that ensued was in fact a reworking of
>         the earlier campaign to prevent Andrés Araúz from running on
>         account of his ties to Rafael Correa. It is worth bearing in
>         mind that typical lawfare strategies had been used to prevent
>         Correa from running as Arauz’s vice president. Once this issue
>         seemed settled, the conflict became about the decision over
>         which candidate to support in the second round. In no time the
>         controversy spilled beyond the country’s borders and gave way
>         to savage insults and counter-insults, calls for censorship
>         and counter-censorship.
>         I found all of this not only surprising but actually quite
>         baffling. That was why I got in touch with you over these past
>         few weeks. It turned out that, once again – and it has always
>         been the case in Ecuador –, the indigenous peoples were
>         playing a key role in political change, but the overwhelming
>         majority of the voices in the debate, both in Ecuador and
>         abroad, were not their own. All that was known about the
>         indigenous movement was that it was divided over Yaku Perez,
>         given that the candidate had initially been chosen not by the
>         indigenous peoples and nationalities, but by the Pachakutik
>         movement. Although Pachakutik first came on the scene as the
>         political arm of CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous
>         Nationalities of Ecuador), its subsequent political trajectory
>         and, in recent years, its alignment in some issues with Lenín
>         Moreno’s neoliberal right-wing government in particular, has
>         caused some tensions with the indigenous movement.
>         Especially puzzling was the silence coming from the young
>         indigenous leaders, who, let us remember, had had differences
>         with indigenous leaders and with the government in the past –
>         a situation I myself followed closely, as you well know. When,
>         on August 15, 2014, I chaired the Special Room on the Yasuni
>         National Park – in the context of the Ethics Tribunal for the
>         Rights of Nature, chaired by my friend Vandana Shiva –, you,
>         along with the indigenous peoples, were the tribunal’s best
>         allies.
>         These were the reasons that led me to consult with you. Today
>         I am writing to let you know that I have decided not to be
>         unconditionally aligned with one or the other  side. I am
>         aware that you will be disappointed in me; you may say
>         legitimately say that I have wasted your precious time. That
>         is why I want to explain to you the reasons for my decision.
>         My reasons are, in fact, perplexities.
>         /*1. Does democracy come first?*/
>         One of the lessons learned by the left in recent decades, both
>         in Latin America and other regions of the world, is that the
>         forces of the left are the sincerest supporters of liberal
>         democracy, even as they recognize its many shortcomings and
>         strive to use it in order to radicalize democracy, that is to
>         say, to turn power relations into relations of shared
>         authority. Experience tells us that the right is not at the
>         service of democracy, but rather uses it when it finds it
>         convenient to do so and discards it when it does not. I have a
>         vivid memory of September 30, 2010 – the day the police forces
>         attempted a coup against Rafael Correa. My friend Alberto
>         Acosta came by my hotel and we rushed to the CONAIE
>         headquarters, where we spent the entire day. The indigenous
>         movement already had some just complaints against Correa at
>         the time, but the priority, at that moment, was not so much to
>         defend Correa as the democracy that he stood for.
>         If this is true, once the courts had decided that there had
>         been no fraud in the 2021 election, the political debate
>         should have focused on each candidate’s political platform. So
>         why does it continue to focus on the integrity of the
>         candidates rather than on their platforms? We must bear in
>         mind that the neoliberal right of various countries on the
>         continent has no platform other than the usual neoliberal
>         recipes, and therefore has been playing the morality card
>         against the candidates on the left, accusing them of
>         corruption. In addition, two disturbing facts need to be taken
>         into account.
>         First, a veritable legal warfare – or lawfare – is being waged
>         in Ecuador for crimes allegedly committed by Rafael Correa,
>         with the sole apparent purpose of neutralizing him
>         politically. This war has been an attempt to damage André
>         Araúz, the candidate who claimed Correa’s legacy. There have
>         been similar campaigns of political neutralization waged
>         against Manuel Zelaya (Honduras), Cristina Kirchner
>         (Argentina), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Lula da Silva and Dilma
>         Rousseff (Brazil) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). In all these
>         instances there has been clear interference on the part of the
>         US. I find it perplexing that many of those who have signed
>         statements against candidate Araúz have also signed statements
>         against Evo Morales and have refused to acknowledge that there
>         was ever a coup in Bolivia.
>         The second disturbing fact is that, at the time of writing, a
>         last attempt to invalidate the election or remove the most
>         voted for candidate has not been ruled out. In fact, it was
>         this very suspicion that recently prompted the UN
>         Secretary-General to make a statement to the effect that
>         everything should be done to hold the runoff election on the
>         scheduled date. Only a few weeks ago, Colombia’s Attorney
>         General went to Quito expressly to present “proof” that Araúz
>         had received money from the National Liberation Army (ELN),
>         the Colombian guerrilla group, to finance his campaign. Prompt
>         denials by both Araúz and the ELN and the blatant
>         improbability of the allegations were not enough to prevent
>         “investigations” from being initiated. We know that Colombia
>         is now a US satellite and that OAS secretary Luis Almagro – a
>         sinister character who engineered the coup in Bolivia – met in
>         Washington with Ecuador’s President, Lenín Moreno, who has
>         made no secret of his preference for Lasso, with Perez his
>         second-favorite candidate. Ecuadorian law is clear in this
>         regard: candidates have immunity, and electoral laws cannot be
>         changed during the election period. However, as we have seen
>         in the case of Brazil, one never knows how far the persecutory
>         wrath of lawfare will go.
>         /*2. Does the left come first? */
>         Intellectuals and activists on the left, notably from feminist
>         and environmentalist groups, have been playing a key role in
>         the Ecuador debate. Some of the participants are colleagues
>         and friends of mine, for whom I have great regard and with
>         whom I have worked over the years. If we accept that Araúz is
>         of the left, at least when compared to Lasso, all our energies
>         should be expected to be invested in the cause of defeating
>         the candidate of the right, and the indigenous movement should
>         be deeply involved in the effort. But that is not what is
>         happening, and one of the organizations that integrates the
>         CONAIE has decided that casting a null vote would be the
>         sensible thing to do. One cannot belittle the reasons for such
>         a stance. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that in the
>         current conditions of the continent one may be neutral when
>         faced with a candidate coming from the democratic left
>         (however problematic) and one that is an Opus Dei banker. Are
>         we talking about the labor pains of the birth of a new left in
>         Ecuador, a left truly in line with the 21st century? As far as
>         I know, this labor is always bound to be painful. Hence the
>         next two perplexities.
>         /*3. What is the left? */
>         The left has long been conceived of as the set of
>         transformative political theories and practices that, over the
>         last one hundred and fifty years, have stood up to the
>         expansion of capitalism and to the kind of economic, social,
>         political and cultural relations generated by it, driven by a
>         belief in the possibility of a post-capitalist future and an
>         alternative society that will be not only more just – because
>         it will be geared toward the satisfaction of the real needs of
>         people – but also more free – because it will focus on
>         creating the conditions for the effective exercise of freedom.
>         For many reasons that I will refrain from detailing in this
>         letter, the above definition has been the subject of much
>         debate, of which I will offer only a brief outline. As popular
>         movements across the world became more acquainted with each
>         other, it also became clear that the political divides
>         obtaining in many countries do not express themselves in terms
>         of the left/right dichotomy.
>         Even in those countries where that dichotomy exists, a huge
>         debate has erupted about the actual meaning of the two terms.
>         Thus, for example, social and political struggles against
>         injustice have greatly expanded the dimensions of injustice
>         and, hence, of domination. In addition to economic and social
>         injustice there was ethno-racial injustice, sexual injustice,
>         historical injustice, linguistic injustice, epistemic
>         injustice, as well as injustices based on disability, caste,
>         religion, etc. This raised new questions, such as the
>         hierarchy of injustices and, consequently, of the struggles
>         against them. Renewed attention was paid to the various
>         specific contexts in which these struggles take place, and it
>         became more and more necessary to distinguish between
>         important and urgent struggles. It became possible, for
>         example, to argue that the three main forms of domination
>         created by Eurocentric modernity are capitalism, colonialism
>         (which, after the colonies gained political independence,
>         changed only in form) and patriarchy.
>         On the Latin American continent, these debates took on other,
>         especially important dimensions. Here are the three main ones.
>         The first was the questioning of the left/right dichotomy, in
>         light of the models of economic and social development adopted
>         by left-wing governments during the first decade of the
>         century. This meant that the polarization was now between the
>         advocates and opponents of neo-extractivism (social
>         redistribution based on the unprecedented exploitation of
>         natural resources, accompanied by the expulsion of native and
>         peasant peoples, ecological crisis, and conservatism related
>         to ethno-cultural, ethno-racial and sexual/heterosexual
>         discrimination). “Progressivism” was the term coined to
>         describe the governments that claimed to be of the left but
>         were not regarded that way by the opponents of neo-extractivism.
>         The second dimension was the statism/movementism polarization.
>         In the sub-continent (as in much of the world), the political
>         forces of the left have traditionally been mostly in favor of
>         the need to control the State in order to use it as the
>         foundation on which to achieve the desired social
>         transformation. Disappointment with historical experience
>         (Stalinism being the most flagrant illustration) worsened at
>         the beginning of the twenty-first century, as a result of the
>         neo-extractivist developmental projects carried out on Latin
>         America. Such projects were led by the State, almost
>         invariably in conjunction with global neoliberal capitalism,
>         and that, in the eyes of the opponents of neo-extractivism,
>         meant the continuation of colonial exploitation. Hence the
>         importance attached to conceptions such as “[to] change the
>         world without taking power” (a John Holloway’s phrase often
>         misunderstood), which caused the proposals of the left to
>         focus on the struggle for a new hegemony (that of the rights
>         of nature) and on a valorization of community projects based
>         on the notions of self-determination and plurinationality.
>         While the statist conception tended to inflate the
>         transformative power of the State – whose matrix, after all,
>         is basically capitalist- colonialist, patriarchal and
>         monocultural –, the movementist conception ran the risk of
>         depoliticizing social movements, such risk being all the
>         greater when it became evident that the support received by
>         the latter came from non-governmental organizations financed
>         by the Global North, for the most part in an attempt to
>         prevent the social movements from becoming political movements.
>         The third dimension, although not an exclusive characteristic
>         of the sub-continent, is the very rapid transformation of the
>         parameters of political polarization. In face of the
>         aggressive, and sometimes putschist, vindictiveness of the
>         right-wing governments that followed the progressive
>         governments, the principal form of polarization was between
>         democracy and dictatorship. And then, in face of the
>         particularly dramatic and painful situation caused by the
>         incompetent, and even criminal, way in which the right-wing
>         governments dealt with the health crisis, the main form of
>         polarization was between politics of life and politics of
>         death. This latest mutation is mostly to be found in Brazil
>         and Ecuador.
>         The debates within the forces of the left remain open. On the
>         one hand, they have brought visibility and political potency
>         to a wide variety of social struggles. On the other, they have
>         given rise to new differences that have proved difficult to
>         reconcile. Unless this obstacle is removed, the struggles
>         waged by the left will lead to further fragmentation instead
>         of articulation and grow increasingly weaker instead of
>         stronger. Two obstacles in particular are having a paralyzing
>         effect: differences regarding the role of the State and
>         institutional struggles; and differences regarding the
>         hierarchical order not only of the driving forces of the
>         struggles (social classes? ethno-racial or sexual identities?)
>         but also of the social goals of the struggles (social
>         redistribution? the recognition of diversity?). Underlying
>         these difficulties is the mega-difficulty generated by the
>         differences between developmentalism/extractivism and buen
>         vivir/rights of nature.
>         The only sure takeaway from all these debates, for now, is
>         probably that the forces of the left know better what they do
>         not want than what they do want. They have long suffered from
>         the political pandemic that predated Coronavirus and which
>         took over the world after the 1980s – the notion that there is
>         no alternative to capitalism and that we have therefore come
>         to the end of history. Interestingly enough, the first strong
>         signals that the forces of the left may be feeling immune to
>         the virus of neoliberalism have come from Ecuador. Let’s see.
>         The Ecuador debate is being strongly influenced by the
>         undermining of the left’s imaginary in the wake of Rafael
>         Correa’s centralism and technocratism. More than any other
>         left-wing political leader of the 2000s, Correa conceived of
>         the left as a sovereignist, top-down, centralist and
>         monocultural anti-imperialist project, committed to social
>         redistribution, but conservative with regard to women’s
>         reproductive rights and averse to any constructive dialogue
>         with organized civil society. This period coincided with a
>         phase of renewed creativity on the part of the forces of the
>         left, which in turn resulted from several factors, among which
>         I would highlight the end of the Soviet bloc and the emergence
>         of new political subjects, notably women, indigenous peoples,
>         peasants, the ecological movements, and the World Social Forum.
>         The whole idea of alternatives gained new life with these
>         changes and was further boosted by the political Constitutions
>         of Ecuador (2008) and Bolivia (2009), which pointed the way to
>         a plurinational refounding of the State and to alternatives to
>         capitalist development based on the philosophies and practices
>         of indigenous peoples. Although still unsure about where their
>         struggles were ultimately headed, the new lefts seemed certain
>         that they would necessarily involve broad processes of
>         democratic participation, the recognition of ethnocultural
>         diversity and of the rights of nature, the plurinational
>         refounding of the State, and the fight against colonialism and
>         patriarchalism. Thus, the anti-capitalist struggle – with its
>         demand for, at the very least, better social redistribution –
>         became articulated with the struggle against colonialism
>         (including racism, ethno-racial discrimination, land
>         concentration, the expulsion of native and peasant peoples,
>         xenophobia, and the monoculture of scientific knowledge) and
>         patriarchy (hetero-sexual domination, domestic violence and
>         feminicide).
>         In view of the discrepancy between Correa’s governance and the
>         changes in the forces of the left and the indigenous movement,
>         frustration mounted and is very much alive, as we can see.
>         Hence my next perplexity.
>         /*4. Who is Rafael Correa anyway? */
>         Had Correa been only, and for all Ecuadorians, the leader I
>         have just described, is it even imaginable that the candidate
>         with the most votes would be the one who claims his legacy? Of
>         course not. Because Correa’s administration had many other
>         dimensions that, although played down by certain sectors of
>         the population, were of great importance to others. Correa
>         maintained political stability for ten years, no small feat in
>         a country that had had no less than seven presidents in the
>         preceding ten-year period. He was internationally praised for
>         launching Ecuador’s debt audit commission, which led to
>         significant debt reduction. He made social redistribution a
>         priority, ensuring that social benefits reached many people
>         who had lived their entire lives without decent living
>         conditions. Poverty dropped from 36.7 percent in 2006 to 22.5
>         percent in 2016, there was a decrease in inequality as
>         measured by the Gini coefficient, and the middle classes saw
>         their prospects improve. Correa introduced free education at
>         all levels of the public education system and raised teachers’
>         salaries. He built much urgently-needed basic infrastructures
>         and established himself as a nationalist leader, the guardian
>         of Ecuadorian sovereignty against US imperialism (I remember
>         the impact of the closing of the Manta base in 2009), even
>         though, over the years, he was forced to come under another
>         foreign influence – that of China.
>         The truth is that, despite all the social unrest, Rafael
>         Correa managed to get Lenín Moreno, his vice president,
>         elected as his successor, although shortly afterwards Moreno
>         subserviently surrendered to the IMF and to the US
>         geostrategic interests in the region, in addition to being
>         complicit in the political persecution of Correa. What all
>         this means is that the least that can be said is that at the
>         end of his mandates Ecuador was a more just society, at least
>         in some respects, than the country that had been ruled by
>         successive waves of right-wingers controlled by the oligarchic
>         elites. So why is it that now, when the oligarchic right again
>         has a candidate in the runoff election, it is not evident in
>         the eyes of some of the forces on the left that the thing to
>         do is to endorse Araúz? I submit, as a working hypothesis,
>         that part of the difficulty stems from the fact that today
>         Ecuador is probably the country in the entire sub-continent
>         with the widest gap between economic-social redistribution and
>         ethno-social recognition and the fewest means to bridge it.
>         Hence my next two perplexities.
>         /*5. What is transition?
>         */
>         /**/One of the main problems with which the lefts that are
>         currently in labor will be faced is the question of
>         transition. We are increasingly aware of the fact that we want
>         an anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, anti-patriarchal,
>         ecological, feminist, plurinational, radically democratic,
>         self-determined society. We are aware of the fact that what we
>         are talking about is a civilizational paradigm shift. How do
>         we fight for it? First of all, we have to be aware of the fact
>         that the fight we are talking about is eminently political.
>         The seemingly apolitical banners of the NGOs have only one
>         purpose, which is to disarm the popular movement. That is why
>         they are heavily funded by the countries of the Global North.
>         I can understand that many of you have grown so frustrated
>         with formal politics that you would rather engage your
>         activism outside the party system.
>         However, while you believe that that system has any relevance,
>         it is better to know what is at stake. Even if we conceive of
>         the struggle as being political, organizing it is no easy
>         task. We know institutions are not to be trusted, but we
>         cannot live without them. We will have to fight with one foot
>         in the institutions and the other outside of them. We will
>         have to fight within, against and outside the State, resorting
>         to different ways – some of them never tested before – of
>         organizing our struggles. And what about allies? We are
>         unlikely to find them among the forces of the right. Whenever
>         the right returns to power, it does so with a vengeance. Take
>         the case of Bolsonaro in Brazil, Macri in Argentina, or the
>         putschist Añez in Bolivia. Is it wise to take the same risk
>         with Lasso in Ecuador? Of course, everything will be easier if
>         Araúz unequivocably shows himself attuned to the transition
>         and not to a return to the past. You are young, the future of
>         the country is in your hands. There are three areas to which
>         you should pay special attention: transition away from
>         extractivism, intercultural education, and co-government with
>         CONAIE, aimed at bringing to fruition the plurinationality
>         enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. The first two areas are
>         part of Araúz’s platform, but all three of them depend on your
>         organized political pressure, which must continue (and not
>         end) after the election. The most important thing is to learn
>         from the mistakes of the past.
>         My dear young friends:
>         My perplexities do not end here, but those listed above should
>         be enough to justify my not intervening in the debate now
>         under way in Ecuador. My wish is that you Ecuadorians, and the
>         Ecuadorian youth in particular, will be the ones to decide the
>         open issues with which you are faced and for which, in all
>         truth, there are no straightforward solutions in sight. What
>         is important is that your decisions are made after careful
>         reflection on the conflicts now raging in your country and
>         without any external interference from well-meaning
>         internationalist intellectual-activists like myself – who,
>         myself included, may very well be wrong – or from foreign
>         countries, be they the US, European countries, Latin American
>         countries, or China. One thing is certain: If your democracy
>         is preserved, whatever you decide will have major
>         consequences, whether positive or negative, for the future of
>         those who, in the rest of the world, see themselves reflected
>         in these polarizations. There are definitely consequences to
>         being at the center of the world.
> On 3/6/2021 11:37 AM, Patrick Bond wrote:
>> Pablo Ospina Peralta is a historian, professor at /Universidad Andina 
>> Simón Bolívar/, researcher at the /Instituto de Estudios 
>> Ecuatorianos/, and a member of the /Comisión de Vivencia, fe y política/
>> Photo: La Marea
>>   Elections in Ecuador. Another left is possible
>>   <https://www.rosalux.org.ec/en/elections-in-ecuador/>
>>         /*February 25th, 2021*/
>> By Pablo Ospina Peralta
>> Ecuador’s presidential elections resulted in remarkable growth by 
>> Pachakutik, the leftist indigenous political movement led by Yaku 
>> Pérez. In this article, its author, an Ecuadorian historian and 
>> researcher, explains why the indigenous movement does not support 
>> Andrés Aráuz, Rafael Correa’s stand-in.
>> /Spanish version of this article was originally published in //La 
>> Marea/ 
>> <https://revistalamarea.com.ar/elecciones-en-ecuador-otra-izquierda-es-posible/>//
>> ________________________________________
>> Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández once said that the only thing 
>> to their left was the wall. Their words translated into a common 
>> problem in all the countries that saw the emergence of progressive 
>> governments during the so-called “pink wave” in Latin America. Facing 
>> this emergence of administrations that worked to reinforce State 
>> intervention in the economy and society, following two decades of a 
>> near-absolute dominance of neo-liberal agendas, which had preached 
>> that the State is nothing but a drag on the economy, there was 
>> practically no other political space available for alternatives. Any 
>> criticism and autonomous options among grassroots supporters were 
>> merely written off as supporting the conventional right wing, or in 
>> the best of cases, as a purely symbolic show with no basis in reality.
>> Ecuador’s most recent elections showed a clear break with this trend. 
>> The candidate representing the Ecuadorian indigenous movement, Yaku 
>> Pérez Guartambel, obtained nearly 20% of the vote, and as I write 
>> this article, is still disputing a second-place finish with the 
>> banker Guillermo Lasso, which will put one of the two on the ballot 
>> in the runoff election. Yet another candidate, one from a traditional 
>> centrist party, to a certain extent social-democratic, with a 
>> professional background in the export business sector, won just over 
>> 15% of the vote. With this, the inescapable dichotomy between 
>> Correaism and the traditional right was completely deconstructed, 
>> both from the center as well as from the left.
>> While Yaku Pérez’s platform, as well as that of Andres Arauz, the 
>> candidate supported by Rafael Correa, have similarities, especially 
>> in terms of increasing taxes on large fortunes and reinforced state 
>> control of the economy, their policy agendas reflect major 
>> differences. Rafael Correa’s electoral victory in 2006 was preceded 
>> by major and intense social demonstrations led by the Confederation 
>> of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the main 
>> organization of indigenous peoples and nationalities in the country, 
>> reflecting their opposition to a free trade agreement with the United 
>> States. Another series of intense demonstrations, this time opposing 
>> mining, were also noteworthy in 2006: the camps of several foreign 
>> companies who had been granted metallic mining concessions were 
>> looted by local communities in resistance. At the time, Correa’s 
>> candidacy benefited from these demonstrations, as well as by a 
>> general disposition marked by people having tired of economic 
>> liberalization and a reduced size of government.
>> However, Correaism quickly distanced itself from these movements, 
>> with policies that were plainly hostile to social demonstrations. 
>> Despite his having benefitted from such movements, and the fact that 
>> during the first two years of his administration he had been able to 
>> orchestrate a certain level of political alignment with them, an 
>> administration that called itself the “citizen revolution” was much 
>> more reflected in the ideas and susceptibility of a refined 
>> technocracy, one fanatical of order, than chaotic grassroots 
>> movements. The difference can be summed up as follows: a truly 
>> grassroots agenda does not merely require the State to “resuscitate;” 
>> it is important to carefully analyze which interests are behind that 
>> reinforced State. Rafael Correa reinforced public education, in the 
>> strict and limited sense that it is not paid education. As far as its 
>> content, this was the same education in public obedience as existed 
>> before, but with computers and better restrooms. The flagship quality 
>> improvement program in public schools was that known as an 
>> “international baccalaureate,” with the aim that private schools 
>> would not be the only ones to offer a degree comparable to a North 
>> American high school education, and also provide the poor with an 
>> opportunity to obtain an English-language education in which a 
>> graduate could pass international standard tests that require a 
>> quality education. There was not even a shadow of any efforts to 
>> promote, even experimentally, alternative education in which teachers 
>> and mothers play a leading role; one centered on the community and 
>> developing critical thinking. The issue is not that this was never 
>> achieved, but rather that no attempt was even made. Public education 
>> went in another direction.
>> There are a multitude of examples. Public health policies were 
>> focused on improving hospital infrastructure and centralizing 
>> business management of clinics, resulting in a resounding failure of 
>> primary care or disease control programs and problems that require 
>> care in the home, such as malnutrition or infant mortality. In 
>> general, anything that required community participation or when 
>> professionals were expected to manage themselves autonomously, ended 
>> up being a failure. Reforms of the university system that went 
>> against the professors themselves; a healthcare reform to the 
>> detriment of doctors and healthcare professionals; and an education 
>> reform that went against teacher’s unions. Hostility toward 
>> autonomous social demonstrations took on epic proportions: 
>> persecution, division, criminal prosecutions with completely 
>> disproportionate charges (terrorism and sabotage) to sow fear, 
>> despondence, and stagnancy. It was a citizen revolution without the 
>> citizenry.
>> In an alternate universe, it would have been possible to accept 
>> progress in free public education to later move toward education with 
>> grassroots, emancipatory content. However, the government not only 
>> discouraged participation, but actively and systematically dedicated 
>> itself to dismantling it. Correaism did not use the same strategies 
>> as Peronism, which substituted existing union leaders with their 
>> loyalists. Correaism discouraged all social organizations for a 
>> simple reason: such organizations did not fill any role in public 
>> policies or in the balance of power. The Correa administration 
>> attempted to create parallel indigenous unions and organizations but 
>> failed because the absolute power of the technocrats in the State 
>> stifled any social autonomy or any organized will of the people 
>> outside of the State construct. Why organize in the shadow of 
>> Correaism if that did not give you even minimal social or state power?
>> The Ecuadorian indigenous movement is the diametrical opposite of 
>> this kind of political agenda. Its base focuses its efforts on 
>> seeking out and defending communal autonomy. Their keyword, 
>> “Plurinational state,” has the precise aim of building such social 
>> and territorial autonomy. Their center of power and prestige has not 
>> been the State, although they have used it many times at the 
>> municipal level; rather, it has been social mobilization. Yaku 
>> Pérez’s victory itself would have been unthinkable without the 
>> successful organization of the intensive and massive demonstrations 
>> in October 2019 in opposition to the economic austerity measures 
>> implemented under the Lenin Moreno administration. Oftentimes 
>> incoherent and not clearly delineated, the indigenous social instinct 
>> leads them to prefer participation and democracy on each issue, 
>> whether in terms of education, health, or social and productive 
>> project management. Instead of a “single water authority” to review 
>> and audit the granting of concessions, it proposed a “plurinational 
>> water council” with the participation of local and territorial 
>> organizations. The idea behind this project is the will to build an 
>> alternative and organized grassroots group outside of the State 
>> construct to progressively take charge of public management. This 
>> means a different State, not just a return of the State.
>> Such a proposal is a risky bet, since not everything is automatically 
>> better just because it is decentralized, local, or has collective 
>> participation. The State, technocrats, and grassroots political 
>> parties could all contribute. There is a wide open field for 
>> experimentation and a search for social balances between the 
>> autonomous power of the State and the autonomous power of the 
>> different groups in society. It must be said that Rafael Correa never 
>> accepted anything less than the most absolute centralization of 
>> decisions in his erudite hands and those of his closest allies. This 
>> he did with the repressive force of the State, and with the most 
>> absolute obstinacy of a person who believes autonomous organizations 
>> to be his enemies. The obvious result was a colonization of the 
>> political agenda of the technocracy of Correaism by a series of 
>> business groups that became economically dependent on government 
>> contracts. As Antonio Gramsci said at the time: “It also happens to 
>> be that many intellectuals believe that they themselves are the 
>> State;  a belief that, given its imposing stature, tends to have 
>> striking consequences, and leads to unpleasant complications for the 
>> fundamental economic group which, in reality, is the State.” However, 
>> these technocrats are not themselves the State, and they ended up 
>> being colonized by those who actually are.
>> Andrés Aráuz, Rafael Correa’s stand-in, could perhaps change all 
>> this, apply self-criticism and seek a reconciliation. Maybe. Thus far 
>> there has been no indication that this could happen. However, it is 
>> evident that without a clear and decided distancing from Rafael 
>> Correa, any possibility of coming to an agreement with the indigenous 
>> movement seems out of the question. If Yaku Pérez does not make it 
>> into the runoff, the most likely outcome is that Pachakutik, Conaie, 
>> and the other grassroots movements that support him will end up 
>> casting a null vote. And this could well be the smartest thing to do 
>> if the goal is to move toward building another kind of left.
>> ***
>>   Paths and Forks in the Road for the Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement
>>   <https://www.rosalux.org.ec/en/paths-and-forks-in-the-road-for-the-ecuadorian-indigenous-movement/>
>>         /February 2021/
>> /Spanish version of this article was originally published in NUSO 
>> <https://revistalamarea.com.ar/elecciones-en-ecuador-otra-izquierda-es-posible/>/
>> By Pablo Ospina Peralta
>> Results from the first round presidential elections once again put 
>> the Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement in the spotlight, as its 
>> candidate, Yaku Pérez, nearly split the second place vote with banker 
>> Guillermo Lasso to participate in the runoff elections. The schisms 
>> within Pachakutik, which acts as a sort of political-electoral arm of 
>> the indigenous movement, are complicated and cannot be reduced to a 
>> mere “class-based” vs. “ethnicist” argument. However, confrontations 
>> with Rafael Correa’s administration do explain part of their 
>> positions and internal divisions.
>> The Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement, which has assumed dead and then 
>> miraculously resurrected numerous times over the past thirty years, 
>> alongside its main organization, the Confederation of Indigenous 
>> Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), continues to surprise and baffle 
>> the nation. In the movement’s most recent show of his power, Yaku 
>> Pérez, the candidate for Pachakutik, which is the political 
>> organization sponsored by Conaie, nearly made it into the runoff, 
>> after receiving nearly 20% of votes, in what turned out to be a near 
>> tie with the conservative politician and banker Guillermo Lasso, who 
>> appears to be the candidate that will take on Andrés Arauz on April 
>> 11. Regardless of this outcome, the first round results have been a 
>> runaway success for Pachakutik, giving it a political position for 
>> the future, along with a major parliamentary bloc in the next 
>> National Assembly.
>> This indigenous movement has been unanimously acclaimed by 
>> progressive and left-wing Latin American progressive thinkers as 
>> being a democratizing force that reflects a renewal of emancipatory 
>> struggles, expressing the fight against racism and internal 
>> colonialism. However, for a certain part of the left, during Conaie’s 
>> conflicts with the Rafael Correa administration (2007-2017), it was 
>> transformed into some sort of tool of the Empire, becoming an 
>> expression of exclusionary ethnicism and a geopolitical arm of 
>> “liberal environmentalism.” With the possibility of Yaku Perez making 
>> it into the runoff election against the candidate supported by Rafael 
>> Correa, these accusations became particularly violent, oftentimes 
>> mixed with expressions bordering on being openly racist, like when 
>> Pérez was decried for allegedly having changed his name to “Yaku” 
>> (which means water in Kichwa; he began using this name legally in 2017).
>> Since 1990, Conaie and the indigenous movement, like the entire 
>> country, has lived through major social, cultural, and economic 
>> changes. These changes include an increased urbanization of its 
>> social base, a broad professional diversification of the movement’s 
>> leaders, greater penetration of state services, and a major, though 
>> still limited, increase in schooling. The presence of NGOs, parties 
>> competing to include indigenous candidates, along with public offices 
>> and agencies that offer scholarships and a wide range of social 
>> projects, have continued and arguably increased, although this trend 
>> dates back to the 1980s. The previous relative isolation of 
>> indigenous areas is now no more than a relic of the past, although 
>> the phenomenon does continue to some extent, especially in the Amazon 
>> region. Despite this fact, and at the same time, indigenous groups 
>> continue to be the poorest and most abandoned ethnic category, with 
>> the nation’s worst social indicators.
>> Traditionally, the Ecuadorian indigenous movement was decentralized 
>> and heterogeneous, both in ideological and organizational terms. 
>> Since the 1970s, the inseparable mix of class-based (“we are poor”) 
>> and ethnic (“we are indigenous nationalities”) discourses has been 
>> associated with environmentalist demands, leveraging existing 
>> national and international opportunities. More slowly, and in a 
>> patchier way, feminism also penetrated the communities, although 
>> supralocal organizations exclusively made up of indigenous women have 
>> not been formed as has happened in Bolivia. Meanwhile, a persistent 
>> moral conservativism, typical of almost all rural areas, interspersed 
>> with the influence of the evangelical and Catholic churches, have 
>> limited, for example, the incorporation of reproductive rights 
>> agendas within indigenous organizations.
>> The conflict between Conaie and the Rafael Correa administration 
>> affected all the ideological, social, and organizational fractures of 
>> the indigenous movement. It is far from true that only one of them 
>> has prevailed. By this, I mean that neither the most “class-based” 
>> nor the most “ethnic” leaders had a common position related to Correa 
>> (whether for or against him). For example, Carlos Viteri, a renowned 
>> Amazonian indigenous intellectual, native of Sarayacu, imbued with a 
>> strong ethnic discourse, became an active member of Correaism. His 
>> community of origin is world famous for its radical opposition to oil 
>> production in its territory, a position they have held since the 
>> 1980s. Viteri, however, was the parliamentarian in charge of issuing 
>> the report that made oil exploitation viable in the Yasuní Reserve 
>> back in 2013. Emphasis on the values of ethnicity can perfectly be 
>> combined with the benefits of extractivism.
>> This shows that there is no evidence whatsoever that social and 
>> generational changes or the conflict with Correa reflect a more 
>> profound “ethnicist” character of the movement. Ethnic and class 
>> tendencies continue to coexist and mutate in the movement’s interior. 
>> The popular uprising that happened in October 2019, for example, was 
>> based on an essentially economic agenda, and demonstrations against 
>> the Lenin Moreno administration resulted in a strengthened leadership 
>> position for Leonidas Iza, a Kichwa leader from Cotopaxi Province, 
>> who is known for an agenda with a “class-based” emphasis. The outline 
>> of an economic program that, under the Conaie leadership, was 
>> conceived in the months after that uprising, takes up all the issues 
>> of a redistributive agenda.
>> Yaku Pérez was the most visible leader of tendencies within the 
>> movement that were most radically opposed to the Correa 
>> administration. The reason for this is quite simple. A rural 
>> organizational leader of an area of the southern Mountain Region that 
>> has gone through a relatively recent process of intermarrying (the 
>> last two generations), and the threat of a mining concession in his 
>> territory brought him closer to Conaie, which had a long history of 
>> opposition to extractive activities, especially in the Amazon Region. 
>> Pérez ended up becoming president of the Mountain Region branch of 
>> Conaie, called Ecuarunari, the largest indigenous organization in the 
>> country. Later, as prefect-elect, he fought for a referendum that 
>> would prohibit all large-scale metallic mining in the province of 
>> Azuay. While the Constitutional Court ended up rejecting this 
>> request, popular approval of a more limited referendum on prohibition 
>> of metallic mining activities in the headwaters of five rivers in the 
>> province’s capital city, Cuenca, just recently garnered 80% of the 
>> vote, and it will not be easy for any future administration to ignore 
>> such a landslide outcome.
>> This anti-mining struggle unleashed an internal process of recovery 
>> and reinvention of the ancestral Cañari identities in these 
>> communities. Such identities provided a practical contribution to the 
>> fight, in addition to giving them pride and a sense that it was 
>> possible to offer economic and living alternatives rooted in local 
>> tradition and the local past. The Correa administration’s obsession 
>> with promoting large-scale metallic mining in a country (and regions) 
>> that never had a mining tradition in the past led it to 
>> systematically persecute social leaders, including Yaku Pérez, who 
>> was imprisoned four times. However, this was not merely a personal 
>> attack on Pérez alone: the State Prosecutor General’s Office 
>> recognized that between 2009 and 2014 there were 400 cases brought 
>> per year for crimes against national security, including more than a 
>> hundred per year for crimes of sabotage and terrorism. There is no 
>> other such precedent in all of 20th century Ecuadorian history. As 
>> one of the main victims of that repressive wave, for Yaku Pérez, the 
>> Correa administration’s end was matter of survival. It is within this 
>> context that he made a famous statement in the 2017 runoff election 
>> between Guillermo Lasso and Lenín Moreno: “I prefer a banker to a 
>> dictatorship.”
>> I cannot quite see how this environmentalist movement could be called 
>> “liberal environmentalism.” No liberal that I know is against mining 
>> in Ecuador. Nor does it make sense to assume that the opposing 
>> political side, aka Rafael Correa, which involves granting mining 
>> concessions to Chinese companies, could be classified as being 
>> national or grassroots. The environmentalist group closest to Yaku 
>> Pérez is Acción Ecológica, which is widely recognized in both Ecuador 
>> and the world as being the most militant of all the grassroots 
>> environmentalist organizations. In the campaign leading up to the 
>> February 7 elections, Pérez had a radical yet feasible position: 
>> optimizing oil production in regions where it already exists, but not 
>> expanding the extractive frontier. Combined with environmental 
>> oversight, his position included respecting mining contracts 
>> currently in the production phase and terminating those that have 
>> only reached the exploration phase thus far.
>> The most well-known dispute within the indigenous movement occurred 
>> as the group was selecting who would be Pachakutik’s candidate for 
>> the February presidential elections. Jaime Vargas, a Shuar leader for 
>> the southern Amazon Region and president of Conaie, along with 
>> Leonidas Iza, publicly complained about the selection process, which, 
>> in their opinion, was organized to favor Pérez. Vargas, like most of 
>> the Shuar leaders, is associated with the more “ethnic” side of the 
>> movement, while Iza is closer to the “class-based” side. However, we 
>> should remember that ideological labels are fluid, ever-changing, and 
>> ever-present. This means there is no recognizable shift, but rather 
>> an ongoing negotiation and coexistence of two sides of a political 
>> identity walking its own ideological tightrope.
>> This type of internal dispute over candidacies is nothing new and 
>> happens frequently within Pachakutik. However, the sheer volume of 
>> votes for Pérez from indigenous areas in 2021 disproves any 
>> significant division in the Conaie bases. Its base appeared to feel 
>> electorally well represented by Pérez. As a result, the conflict 
>> between leaders was buried under an avalanche of votes. Nevertheless, 
>> this conflict with Iza in particular will most certainly reappear in 
>> the future. It is clear that the political weight of Yaku Pérez has 
>> been greatly enhanced within Conaie after obtaining almost 20% of the 
>> national vote. It is the first time that an individual has appeared 
>> on the scene who can give national electoral weight to Conaie’s 
>> social and organizational power. The situation seems comparable to 
>> that of Evo Morales in Bolivia after the 2002 elections, when he 
>> obtained more than 21% of the vote and came in a surprising second 
>> place. No other figure will equal Pérez’s personal political weight 
>> inside of the movement.
>> The great challenge facing the indigenous movement, as the undisputed 
>> benchmark for organizations and grassroots movements in Ecuador, will 
>> be to find a way to wisely manage this electoral victory and navigate 
>> the immense political capital gained. After several attempts, at last 
>> this movement managed to successfully bring itself to the political 
>> stage as a third political option between Correaism and the 
>> traditional right. It did this thanks to another ancient tradition: 
>> combining demonstrations taken to the streets (the October 2019 
>> uprising) and electoral participation.
>> The conflictive relationship with Correaism will undoubtedly be a 
>> crucial component to this difficult navigation. Will Andrés Aráuz be 
>> the architect of a generational shift towards a more open policy by 
>> Correaism towards social movements? There is still no indication that 
>> such a thing will happen, but it is clear that if Arauz wants to win 
>> the runoff, he will have to distance himself from his mentor, who 
>> despite being his sole political bolster in the first round, now 
>> becomes his main liability in the runoff.
>> Another of Pachakutik’s major challenges going forward will be to add 
>> more detail to its programs and agendas, as outlined in the recent 
>> campaign, and in the documents behind the economic program stemming 
>> from both the October 2019 uprisings and “Minka for Life,” the name 
>> given to Pérez’s economic and social agenda. It is clear that a 
>> strong environmental commitment is essential to guide the legislative 
>> and executive agendas, but that is not enough. To meet this 
>> challenge, Yaku Pérez has not only his own personal experience and 
>> individual inclinations, but also thirty years of cumulative 
>> collective experience.
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