[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

Steven Johnson thinkingaloud at gmail.com
Fri Apr 2 15:34:49 CEST 2021

I found this concise reminder of key concepts in Svampa helpful. She is a
thinker who gives me some hope that powerful movements can be formed around
genuine ecological realism that sees the disastrous ends towards which the
policies of currently prevailing lefts and rights are taking us, and that
harmonize the interests of people today with those of future generations.
Thanks for posting, Patrick.

Steven Johnson

On Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 10:40 AM Patrick Bond <pbond at mail.ngo.za> wrote:

> The eco-territorial turn in Latin America: a conversation with Maristella
> Svampa
> <http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2021/3/31/the-eco-territorial-turn-in-latin-america-a-conversation-with-maristella-svampa>
> http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2021/3/31/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*
> <https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cmleYgC0znXnWMnffbTvT2rrf90q4mQ4/view?usp=sharing>
> *.*
> [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
> <http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2015/4/22/the-commodities-consensus-and-valuation-languages-in-latin-america-1>”
> by Maristella Svampa, available on
> http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2015/4/22/the-commodities-consensus-and-valuation-languages-in-latin-america-1
> 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/
> .
> 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
>>> *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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