Ecuador’s Failed Revolt

Atilio Boron

“Far from having triumphed, what really happened was the consummation of a defeat of the popular insurgency, whose enormous sacrifice was offered without anything concrete in exchange at a false negotiating table.”

The supposed negotiation between the leadership of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (Conaie) and Lenín Moreno was concluded on October 14, and the victory of the popular uprising was declared. The mobilization had begun, according to an official tweet of the Conaie, to put an end to “the economic policies of death and misery generated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the extractivist policies that affect our territories”. In the very complete and detailed “Declaration of the Agenda of Struggle of Organizations of Peoples, Nationalities and Indigenous and Amazonian Communities in Support of National Mobilization and the Exercise of Our Self-Determination”, approved in Puyo (Pastaza) on October 7, 2019, the rejection of “the economic measures”, known as the “package”, was highlighted among its most outstanding contents, and stated that “we demand the complete reversal of the letter of intent signed with the IMF, the content of which has not been made public in violation of the obligation to make the acts of the Executive transparent; as well as the termination of the attempts of privatization of the public companies concealed under the figure of ‘concession'”. The Agenda and other statements of the Conaie also denounced “the enormous benefits that the bourgeoisie continues to receive through multiple policies of economic reactivation” and affirmed that the “moment of action had come to secure popular demands and prevent the steamroller of reforms from passing over the economy of poor households”. This translated, according to the leaders of the movement, into scandalous measures in favour of the banks and major companies that were exonerated from paying 4,295 million dollars in taxes as well as the “colonization” by their representatives of the main positions of the public administration and the deregulation and precarization of labour demanded in the IMF’s “package”. It should be remembered that the measures announced by Moreno on October 1 established that workers in public companies “should contribute one day of their salary each month” and that in order to “reduce the wage bill the casual contracts would be renewed with 20% less remuneration, while their vacation time would be reduced from 30 to 15 days”. Added to this was the enormous increase in fuel prices caused by the elimination of subsidies established forty years ago, which would make most popular consumer goods more expensive and drastically cut the population’s income.

It is surprising that this lush agenda was completely left out of the discussion between the leaders of the indigenous peoples and the Ecuadorian president. The triumphalism of some protagonists and observers of the conflict when speaking of the “negotiation” that put an end to the revolt is therefore incomprehensible. Except for the question of the price of gasoline – no doubt important – everything else remains intact, as if the enormous popular mobilization against the impositions of the IMF had not taken place. The issues which caused the ” package” were surprisingly left out of the discussion, as well as the demand, previously expressed by the indigenous leadership, to reverse the letter of intent signed with the IMF “in an unconsultated manner. Not only that: Also buried in oblivion, at least for now, was the fact that Moreno had come into government through the program of the Citizen Revolution of former president Rafael Correa, who contemplated the continuation of the post-neoliberal measures that had been fiercely opposed by Ecuador’s economic elites and with an agenda that positioned Ecuador in line with the progressive governments of the region, striving to emancipate itself from the heavy tutelage that Washington had traditionally exercised over nations located in what they so respectfully call America’s “backyard”. Through a spectacular political somersault Moreno embezzled that mandate with a speed and radicality rarely seen while turning Rafael Correa -who until the day of the inauguration never tired of saying that he had been one of the most distinguished figures of Ecuador, only surpassed by Eloy Alfaro- into a nefarious personage responsible for the greatest misfortunes ever suffered by Ecuador and whom he persecuted -and continues to persecute- with unremitting viciousness. Moreno not only reversed the path travelled by Correa, but he did so by vilely submitting to Washington’s mandates: he abandoned the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA); handed over a military base in Galapagos (one of humanity’s last unspoiled sanctuaries); evicted the authorities and officials of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) from the building built on the outskirts of Quito, precisely on the equator; and knelt before Donald Trump to indulge the emperor’s slightest whims with unparalleled ignominy (on a continent prodigal with the empire’s bootlickers). He tried to destroy Unasur and promote the nefarious Lima Group to attack the Bolivarian Revolution. Ecuador went from the national self-determination achieved by Correa’s government to being a “proxy”, or rather, a champion-state that limits itself to obeying the orders emanating from Washington and the corrupt dominant oligarchies in Ecuador.

Nothing, absolutely none of this, appeared in the “negotiations” that the Conaie leadership had with Moreno that brought an end to the confrontations. Nor was there in that peculiar “negotiation” a condemnation of the brutality of the police and military repression, the deaths (minimum ten), almost 100 disappeared, hundreds of wounded and imprisoned, the latter by the thousands, and nothing was said about the request for resignation of the ultra-reactionary ministers of the Interior and Defense and about the abuses against human rights defenders. Was all the commotion that shook Ecuador only because of the price of gasoline? And what about the IMF’s “package”? Apparently the mountains gave birth to a mouse.

Let us offer some insights to unravel what happened and why.

First, what characterized this revolt was its tremendous ideological and political weakness that could not be hidden under the multitude of its convocation. It lacked a political leadership motivated by a genuine desire for change and opposition to the ruling regime. Seen from the perspective of the advantage given by the passage of time, it could be said with a touch of exaggeration that it was a dispute within the Moreno project and nothing more, and that the spontaneity of the protest triggered by the October 1 decree was welcomed by its leaders, who were not at all interested in raising the level of consciousness of the insurgent masses. The rest was rhetorical leaf litter intended more to confuse the masses than to clarify their consciousness and the meaning of their struggle.

Second, Moreno’s betrayal finds its mirror in some of the most notorious leaders of the Conaie, especially Jaime Vargas, who threw his own dead or disappeared overboard in order to obtain in exchange the promise – understand it well, “the promise” – of a new decree that only an illusionist, or a perverse accomplice, can believe will mean reversing the path of total submission to the IMF.

Let us offer some insights to unravel what happened and why. First, what characterized this revolt was its tremendous ideological and political weakness that could not be hidden under the multitude of its convocation. It lacked a political leadership motivated by a genuine desire for change and opposition to the ruling regime. Seen from the perspective of the advantage given by the passage of time, it could be said with a touch of exaggeration that it was a dispute within the Moreno project and nothing more, and that the spontaneity of the protest triggered by the October 1 decree was welcomed by its leaders, who were not at all interested in raising the level of consciousness of the insurgent masses. The rest was rhetorical leaf litter intended more to confuse the masses than to clarify their consciousness and the meaning of their struggle.

Second, Moreno’s betrayal finds its mirror in some of the most notorious leaders of the Conaie, especially Jaime Vargas, who threw his own dead or disappeared overboard in order to obtain in exchange the promise – understand it well, “the promise” – of a new decree that only an illusionist, or a perverse accomplice, can believe will mean reversing the path of total submission to the IMF.

Third, we can expect a deep discussion within the Conaie because there are indications that a sector of the leadership, and more than a few in its bases, do not accept what was agreed with Moreno’s regime. Not just what Vargas negotiated, but also the role played by Salvador Quispe, who was an expression of Moreno and a fierce enemy of Correa, and whose animosity towards Correa led him to forge an obscene conspiracy with Moreno. It is by no means a stretch to predict that this latent conflict will not be long in coming. Third, the President moved astutely, well advised by Enrique Ayala Mora, president of the Socialist Party of Ecuador and some other mercenaries of Ecuadorian politics (united by their sick rancour against former President Correa) such as Pablo Celi, Juan Sebastián Roldán and Gustavo Larrea, regular visitors and colleagues from “the embassy” (not to mention “agents”) who advised him on how to negotiate with the Indians: promises, sympathetic gestures, photos, a television montage, exaltations of false unity, “we are all Ecuadorians,” an operetta fraternity in charge of the major chameleon of Latin American politics, Lenín Moreno, to force the rebels return to their communities, leaving the field clear for the government to continue its project without stumbling blocks.

Fourth, the success of the government’s strategy is also based on a fact that is as certain as it is regrettable: The deep penetration of the antipolitical ideas in Ecuadorian civil society, which perceives the parties as incurable nests of corruption, as well as a virulent and sustained attack against correism and anything else that resembles it, the complicity of the judiciary in validating the systematic violation of the rule of law during Moreno’s administration and the manipulative role of the media oligarchy that unfailingly misinformed throughout the conflict.

Fifth, that although the indigenous insurgency had the support of broad sectors of the population, these were nothing more than a chorus that passively accompanied the initiatives of the Conaie leadership. There is no other way to interpret the anomalous fact that only the leadership of that organization (very influenced, it is known, by certain NGOs that operate in Ecuador that are the invisible tentacles of the empire and some of the federal agencies of the United States Government) would have been seated at the negotiating table. What about the other sectors of the popular camp? Nothing. Suddenly all its other components disappeared and everything solid “dissolved in the air,” leaving no traces of the conflict. The weakening of the parties and unions greatly facilitated things for the government and for the conservative leadership of Conaie. It is a shameful and extravagant fact that the main target of this attack would have been Rafael Correa and not the executioner who was murdering his followers in the streets of Quito. This reveals the depth of a conflict between the former president and that organization that at this juncture was instrumental in preventing correism, as well as other political and social forces, from converging in the leadership of the revolt. Moreover, the government imprisoned several of the most important leaders of the Correísmo, beginning with the prefect of Pichincha, Paola Pabón, without the least protest of the Conaie leadership against such an attack.

To conclude: far from having triumphed, what really happened was the consummation of a defeat of the popular insurgency, whose enormous sacrifice was offered without anything concrete in exchange and to top it off at a false negotiating table. An indigenous leadership that is either naïve or corrupt because, (paraphrasing what Che said about imperialism), Moreno can neither be believed nor trusted! They believed a character like Moreno, a serial traitor who, if he failed to keep his promises a hundred times, will do it a hundred times and one, without any scruple and dying of laughter at the indigenous negotiators! Of course, the President also came out of the conflict weakened: he had to flee Quito and set up a negotiation, fraudulent but showy and effective before the television cameras. The IMF will reproach him for his attitude and will return him to the task, forcing him to comply with what he agreed, despite the promises he made to Conaie. It won’t be long before the popular masses, not only the original peoples but also the poor sectors of the city and countryside, the impoverished and disempowered middle sectors, ultimately, the majority of the population of Ecuador will realize the great scam perpetrated by Moreno and his evil advisors with the unforgivable complicity of the Conaie leadership and decide to take to the streets again. It is a venerable tradition of the Ecuadorian people that overthrew several reactionary presidents and if on this occasion, when you made an incredible effort, things went wrong, then chances are that the outcome of their sure resurgence will be very different.

Drawing a parallel with the story of the Russian Revolution, what we witnessed in Ecuador seemed to be an October and turned out to be a February. This is why the Ecuadorian “Kerensky” is still in power, as the Russian remained until his October arrived. Sooner rather than later the Ecuadorian will also have his October and if the popular masses learn anything from this lesson in the future they will not be deceived and when they rebel they will rid themselves of their surrendered leadership and put an end to a regime that is immoral and retrograde, as few have been in the history of Our America.

Translation by Internationalist 360°