Ecuador's indigenous organizations and defamation
Narco News Bulletin, Fernando León and Erin Rosa
Last September 30, Latin America observed what appeared to be the third coup d’etat of the new millennium, and upon first glance many of us believed it was possible. But with the passage of time following this event, the facts have become even more confusing. Ecuadorian social movements that didn’t support President Rafael Correa ipso facto were attacked with criticisms and falsehoods from those whose vision of the left in the hemisphere doesn’t transcend the limits of the state. Within the very nature of the attempted coup, or whatever it was, the most relevant thing emerged a few days later, with the attempted attacks against historic Ecuadorian indigenous organizations that, for strong differences over its policies, don’t support the Ecuadorian government.
Leading the charge against these indigenous social movements is US lawyer Eva Golinger, a television personality for TeleSur, a channel created by the Venezuelan government that receives additional financing from other Latin American governments. Formerly with the government-supported Washington DC-based Venezuelan Information Office, Golinger has attempted in recent days to paint a portrait of historic organizations like the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE in Spanish initials) as agents of US imperialism. In separate interviews with Narco News, Latin America social fighters with decades of experience in the field of struggles in the hemisphere told this newspaper that they found such statements absurd, unfounded, and unsupported by the supposed “evidence” offered. Among them is Raquel Gutierrez, the Mexican academic and former political prisoner who was accused (along with current Bolivian vice
A Brief History of the Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement
The new millennium in Latin America has been defined by a historic period of governments with a specific character: in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina – Nicaragua? El Salvador? – they brought an end to the traumatic decades of dictatorships in the continent. The most relevant thing is that these governments are a product of the social movements that occurred during the previous decades in these countries. However, despite the achievements, many of the movements that helped build those different governments are now seen by them as threats.
And Ecuador is no exception.
The indigenous movement in Ecuador has been one of the most articulate throughout the hemisphere, in a country where out of a population of more than 14 million more than 40 percent are estimated to be indigenous. In 1972, the first regional indigenous federation emerged in the Ecuadorian highlands. It was called ECUARUNARI – currently part of the CONAIE coalition – with a objective to fight for the legalization of indigenous lands, “education, the freedom to organize, to participate in internal and external decision making, among other things.”
By November of 1986 a congress of the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities (CONACNIE in Spanish initials) of Ecuador agreed to form the CONAIE, an organization made up of more than 30 peoples and nationalities from Ecuador. Among their objectives are:
What the CONAIE considers to be the first great uprising of the federation happened between late May and early June in 1990, when the group took action “to defend and vindicate their rights to land, justice and freedom.”
These constant mobilizations for basic indigenous rights have succeeded in toppling governments that attack the basic principles the CONAIE has struggled for since its founding. In 1998 the movement won the dismissal of President Abdala Bucaram from office. Two years later, the social movements abruptly ended the government of President Jamil Mahuad. With a strategic alliance the CONAIE decided to support Lucio Guitérrez in the presidential elections of 2002. Guitérrez’s main contender was tycoon Álvaro Noboa, who accused Guitérrez of “being a populist radical like Hugo Chávez,” according to BBC News. Gutiérrez won with 54 percent of the vote. Later, due to a shift to the right with the Gutierrez government, the CONAIE definitively broke ties with Gutiérrez in August 2003. Once again, as an oppositional force, social movements composed largely of CONAIE indigenous groups successfully ousted Gutiérrez in 2005.
With the experience of having supported the Gutiérrez government, the CONAIE is in a period that Uruguayan journalist and analyst Raul Zibechi calls its “reconstruction.” In 2005 “the direction of the CONAIE returned to the grassroots communities…and disappeared from the Ecuadorian political landscape because its direction had returned to the basics. This publicized disappearance allowed it to reconstruct itself from below.”
The Offensive by “Journalism of the State” vs. the Indigenous
One of the most powerful weapons from the governments and some media outlets that brand themselves as “progressive” – because as the scholar Adolfo Gilly has said, with his vast experience in the struggles from below, one must first believe in progress in order to call oneself a progressive – is the attempt to discredit social movements that do not align entirely with their agendas. This situation has increased considerably in the last week. In response to the September 30 uprising by Ecuadorian police, the CONAIE issued a statement at a press conference, where members said they didn’t support the coup or President Correa. In an interview with this newspaper, Zibechi said the CONAIE position is logical: “The CONAIE is made up of 5,000 communities that have many internal contradictions, but I would consider their statement to be fair. They’re against any coup, and that is clear, but they don’t want Correa, who represses them, imprisons them, and has accused them of being terrorists.”
However, after the CONAIE statement, the defenders of “democracy from above” began their offensive.
A day after the reported coup attempt in Ecuador, Golinger made a felony acusation that CONAIE had at its “disposal” funds from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit that receives money from the US government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department:
Golinger’s accusations attempted to claim that CONAIE has somehow been co-opted by US interests. Directly accusing an organization like CONAIE with something like this is not something to be taken lightly or at face value. The “evidence” that Golinger bases this on is in a document obtained by the US Freedom of Information Act that should be read carefully, since it can be presumed that Golinger did not do so.
First, a brief digression to explain the relationship between the political party Pachakutik and the CONAIE:
In 1995, the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement – New Country (MUPP-NP in Spanish initials) was created, and is according to its website a “multi-ethnic and democratic political movement, with organizational autonomy and deep relations within nationalities and social movements, that is open to participation culminating in social change.” The MUPP-NP is composed of distinct social organizations and sectors from Ecuadorian society. The CONAIE is one of the groups that make up the MUPP-NP.
Now to return to what Golinger published, she also said that:
According to Golinger, because the NED gave a grant to NDI to carry out electoral seminars in Ecuador, Pachakutik is supposedly a puppet to US interests. Before addressing the document, let’s note that Golinger says it was “at least since 2005-2006” that these organizations received financing from NDI/NED. Or is it that from 2005-2006 that they received the supposed funding?
Looking at the document it says that:
Throughout the entire document, that is the only mention of Pachakutik, without any mention at all of the CONAIE.
Now here are some key points after analyzing Golinger’s document:
The document never mentions any group that is directly receiving money, not the Pachakutik or the CONAIE.
Contrary to what Golinger claims, as has been said, in the document there is no proof that the Pachakutik or the CONAIE were given any funds at all. Still, on October 8, in response to a reader comment on her blog that noted the supposed financing took place before the Presidential Correa’s term, Golinger said:
It’s unknown what documents she is referring to, because according to a correct reading of the document she used as evidence there is no “pattern of funding.” She continues:
At first, according to Golinger’s own words, the “funding/training/advice”since 2005-2006 had been a fact, but now it appears not. The phrase “most likely conclusion” is to say that her “evidence” is based on assumptions. She continues:
This point is key, because along with repeating that NED/NDI funded the Pachakutik/RED, she claims that they competed against Correa in the election of 2006 and 2009. But in the elections of 2006, Pachakutik decided to support Correa. Perhaps Golinger forgot, or maybe she preferred not to remember. Zibechi says:
So according to what Golinger says, a party that joined a country-wide alliance to bring Correa to power received “funding/training/advice” from the NDI/NED. Golinger continues:
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