Toward the Plurinational State: CONAIE on the Police Rebellion in Ecuador

February 24, 2011

What follows is a communiqué issued September 30 by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which comprises three indigenous groups, ECUARUNARI, CONFENIAE, and CONAICE. Formed in 1986, CONAIE defines itself as “the representative body that guarantees Indigenous people the political voice that has too long been denied them, and that expresses their needs and goals within a rapidly changing world.” It has organized numerous massive popular uprisings and blockades to protest neo-liberal policies and U.S. military occupation of Latin America, to demand recognition of indigenous land and water rights, and to denounce the government’s model of economic development, which relies on expanding the extractive industries. CONAIE has had a fraught history with the national electoral process, which many within the confederation see as inherently corrupt.


Originally titled “We Call for the Unity of Social Organizations for a Peoples’ Plurinational Democracy,” the following communiqué was posted on CONAIE’s website ( and began circulating on the Internet in response to the nationwide rebellion launched by Ecuador’s National Police. Although Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and some on the left accused CONAIE of collaborating with USAID and being allied with the police in a coup attempt against Correa, CONAIE’s analysis is much more complex.


The communiqué recognizes that a coup attempt took place and denounces it. In distancing itself from the forces that carried out the rebellion, CONAIE makes a distinction between the “old right”—generally referring to the Social Christian Party and leaders like Jaime Nebot, mayor of Guayaquil—and the “new right,” personified by former president Lucio Gutiérrez and his party, Patriotic Society. But the confederation nonetheless insists that the Correa administration lacks an inclusive democratic process, which has simultaneously weakened the power of the president’s popular base and strengthened that of his right-wing opponents. CONAIE also criticizes the Correa government’s resort to “violence and repression,” referring to the death in December 2009 of bilingual educator Bosco Wisuma (Shuar) in the province of Zamora-Chinchipe, which CONAIE maintains took place at the hands of official security forces.


Translation by NACLA.


A process of change, as weak as it may be, runs the risk of being defeated or co-opted by the right, old or new, unless it establishes alliances with organized social and popular sectors, and progressively deepens itself. The insubordination of the police, beyond their immediate demands, lays bare at least four substantial things:


1. While the government has dedicated itself exclusively to attacking and delegitimizing organized sectors like the indigenous movement, workers’ unions, etc., it has not in the least weakened the right-wing structures of power, and not even those within the state apparatus, which has become evident with the speed with which the public forces acted. 


2. The social crisis unleashed today was also provoked by the authoritarian character of the lawmaking process and its non-opening to dialogue. We have seen how laws to which a consensus was reached were vetoed by the president, closing off any possibility of agreement. 


3. Faced with the criticism and mobilization of communities against transnational mining, oil, and agro-industrial companies, the government, instead of creating a dialogue, responds with violence and repression, as occurred in Zamora-Chinchipe. 


4. This situation nurtures the conservative sectors. Soon enough, various groups and individuals from the old right will demand the overthrow of the government and the installation of a civil or military dictatorship. But the new right, both from within and outside the government, will use this context to justify their complete alliance with the most reactionary sectors and with emerging business interests.


The Ecuadoran indigenous movement, CONAIE, with its regional confederations and its grassroots organizations, declares before Ecuadoran society and the international community their rejection to the government’s economic and social policies, and with the same energy we also reject the actions of the right, which surreptitiously form part of the attempted coup d’état, and against this we will continue to fight for the construction of a plurinational state with true democracy. 


Consistent with the mandate of the communities, peoples, and nationalities, and faithful to our history of struggle and resistance against colonialism, discrimination, and the exploitation of the oppressed [los de abajo], of the impoverished, we will defend democracy and the rights of the people: no concession to the right. 


In these critical moments, our position is: 


1. We call on our bases to remain alert and ready to mobilize in defense of true plurinational democracy and against the actions of the right. 


2. We deepen our mobilization against the extractive model and the establishment of large-scale mining, the privatization and concentration of water, and the expansion of the oil frontier.


3. We convene and join together with diverse organized sectors to defend the rights of workers affected by the arbitrariness that has driven the legislative process, recognizing that they are making legitimate demands. 


4. We demand that the national government firmly give up every possible concession to the right. We demand that the government abandon its authoritarian attitude toward the popular sectors, that it does not criminalize social protest and persecute leaders: The only thing this kind of politics accomplishes is to open spaces for the right and for destabilization. 


The best way to defend democracy is to begin a true revolution that resolves the most urgent and structural questions for the benefit of the majority. On this path [is] the effective construction of the plurinational state, the immediate initiation of an agrarian revolution, and the de-privatization of water.  


This is our position at this conjuncture and in this historical period. 


Marlon Santi, President, CONAIE

Delfín Tenesaca, President, ECUARUNARI

Tito Puanchir, President, CONFENIAE

Olindo Nastacuaz, President, CONAICE



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