Ecuador's indigenous populations hold anti-government protest

Rafael Correa
Rafael Correa

Indigenous people who staged a massive protest in Quito, Ecuador today demanded President Rafael Correa abandon plans to change the law so he can run for a fourth re-election otherwise they said their protests would go on indefinitely. 

“The president wants his indefinite re-election," Carlos Perez, an indigenous leader representing the Ecuaruni organization, told the Latin Business Daily by phone before the protest.  "This protest seeks to get him to put into archives all initiatives for a new re-election."

Correa, 52, was first elected in 2006. He was re-elected in 2009, 2011 and 2013; and his current term will not end for two more years.

Under the current law, Correa would not be able to run for re-election again, but the government has introduced a proposed constitutional reform that will allow any authority elected by popular vote to be re-elected indefinitely. 

The native groups, which had supported Correa when he was first elected, now accuse him of having betrayed his earlier promises.

In addition to the re-election issue, the groups, which are backed by a number of union organizations, are protesting changes in education, land and water rights policies.

"There [are] people that have been in jail to defend rights over land and water,¨ Perez said. 

He also said Correa has failed to meet earlier promises  to indigenous organizations to carry out reforms to make access to education and land more inclusive.

¨A popular consultation (referendum) should be called so that people can decide,” Perez said.

Earlier in the week, Correa promised that the protest -- and corresponding one-day strike -- would be "a great failure."

" Either we allow that this remnants of the past continue to hurt the country or we show the unanimous rejection of all the nation,” Correa said. 

He also accused protest organizers of being instruments of the richer Ecuadoreans, and belonging to labor and indigenous “elites."

Analysts have said that today's protests will show the true dimension of Correa´s opposition. 

As recently as the 1990s, Ecuadorean indigenous organizations have destabilized governments and led to leader resignations, but their current organization capacity is not known.