Ecuador: Mandate for Water, Life and Dignity of Peoples

CONAIE began a Plurinational March for Life, Water, and Dignity of the People on March 8, 2012 (International Women’s Day), and it is schedulet to arrive in Quito on March 22 (World Water Day). The purpose of the march is to defend the 2008 constitution against the government’s neoliberal attacks, and to pressure for the passage of water and agrarian revolution laws (see CONAIE and Social Movements Mobilize in Ecuador). Below is a statement laying out the demands of the march.


Initially the Alianza País government was characterized by anti-neoliberal proposals that were part of the discourse and proposals that formed the basis of struggle of the Indigenous and other social movements. In exercising of its mandate, the government has been characterized by capitalist reforms that, according to the National Plan for Good Living, presents a change in the direction of accumulation whose endogenous development strategy moves from a extractive, export, and speculative pattern to one based on the commercialization and private use of biodiversity for the benefit of transnational corporations.

Government policies, however, provide a continuity and expansion in extractive and polluting models. This is evidenced by the expansion of the oil frontier via tendering of new wells in the southeastern Amazon and the imminent start of the operational phase of mining projects on a large scale. This policy of expanding oil endangers the lives of free people (Tagaeri and Taromenane) with the exploitation of the Armadillo, 31 and ITT blocks.

Although at first the president’s speech was nationalistic in the sense that it must be state-owned enterprises that exploit natural resources, in fact the government has delegated their development to transnational capital. Thus, under the discourse of efficiency, he has transfered the oil production from the mature fields of Shushufindi and Libertador, until now under the control of Petroecuador, to the transnational companies Schlumberger, Tecpetrol and Sertecpet, a development that was not possible or under neoliberalism.

The same thing happens in mining, as the five strategic projects under the National Mining Development Plan (Mirador, Panantza – San Carlos, Quimsacocha, Fruta del Norte, Rio Blanco) are also under the control of transnational capital, that is, companies will take most of the wealth that these projects generate. For the Mirador Project (Zamora Chinchipe), which represent approximately twenty billion dollars, only 22 percent will be paid as rent to the state while the remaining 78 percent will go to the multinationals, leaving us also with 681 billion liters of contaminated water.

This is linked to the implementation of a new energy system with a plan to build hydroelectric dams and multipurpose projects (such as the Coca Codo Sinclair, PMPPCH, etc.) financed with capital and agreements from Chinese companies, which function to provide energy to the integrated system (necessary for mining) and securing water for agribusiness that will flood thousands of acres of the most fertile and biodiverse areas, including local peasant and Indigenous territories such as Villao, Rio Grande, etc. on the coast and in the Amazon.

The orientation of the model has increased the public debt. According ot the Central Bank, the external debt has risen to US$ 9,868.7 million (Nov. 2011), and the domestic debt (for loans made to the Social Security) has risen to US$ 4,557.6.

Although the official discourse does not recognize it as foreign debt, Ecuador must pay US$ 4,682 million to China for US$ 1,000 million in 2009 oil contracts, US$ 1,682 million to Eximbank for Coca Codo Sinclair in June 2010, and US$ 1,000 million of credit tied to oil in October 2010, and another oil contract for US$ 1,000 million with PetroChina in January 2011. By mid-2011, US$ 2,000 million was contracted for oil payments, of which US$ 1,400 million was already disbursed, and it was announced that the hydroelectric project Sopladora will be financed by China for US$ 571 million. In December, president Rafael Correa announced that he negotiated another $US 1,700 million from the China Development Bank.

This shows that the supposed achievement of the Government to challenge and reduce public debt, which in 2009 had dropped to 19.7 percent of GDP, has currently risen to 30.7 percent. This means that the debt has not changed, only the mechanisms and creditors have changed.

On agricultural and food sovereignty, the structural conditions of the concentration of land and water; intermediation; lack of access to credit and technological dependence on a package of inputs whose cost is constantly increasing, has created the crisis of peasant agriculture. Government policies that promised an “agrarian revolution” have not faced this reality.

The inequality of agrarian structures persists. 7 percent of land owners controls 60 percent of arable land, and has kept a high concentration of irrigation water in private hands: 86 percenet of agricultural production units (UPA) with community systems have 22 percent of their area irrigated, and with only 13 percent of the flow rate, while 1 percent of privately owned UPAs have 63 percent of their land irrigated and with a flow rate of 64 percent.

However, the so-called Plan of Lands and Territories as a whole has been a failure. The transfer of land to peasants have been at a minimum. There is no will to affect large properties and the concentration of privately owned land, arguing that it is more productive. The little bit of land transfer from expropriations has generated an unpayable debt cycle for farmers and a high level of social conflict. In the province of Pichincha, Machachi Canton after a long process of expropriation the San Antonio Association was awarded the San Antonio de Valencia estate, at a cost of US$ 4,600,000 with high commercial interest rate, and to this date the beneficiaries cannot enter the premises.

Agricultural development policy has promoted medium and large properties that focus on the production of bananas, palm, sugarcane, rice, corn and cattle, while small farms that maintain food sovereignty have not been beneficiaries of this policy. Unfavorable conditions for access to credit have left farmers at the mercy of credit unions.

In the 2012 budget, the 3 strategic areas to exit the extractive matrix (tourism, agriculture, environment) just add US$ 426 million dollars, representing 1.6 percent of the budget with a sharp decline in the agricultural sector of -17.69 percent over the previous year. While the cost of government propaganda is US$ 295 million dollars, surpassing investment in agriculture that only amounts to US$ 211 million. Thus the government’s stance in favor of agribusiness and extractive industries is clear, abandoning rural and popular economies that support food sovereignty.

Moreover, the government is requiring farmers, artisans, peddlers, street vendors, among others, to enroll in the Registry of Taxpayers (RUC) and the Register of Providers (RUP), which generates the payment of a series of taxes, the taxation of rural land and property taxes, the so-called green taxes, and and the control and banning of community transport for which communities have opted when they do not have access to public transport. All of this is through a series of policies to formalize and control of peasant and popular economies through decrees and laws as the COOTAD, the Production Code and the Tax Equity Act.

In case of livestock, which is a way to apply to the system of property taxes to farmers under the COOTAD, it not only records animals on each farm but requires owners to have a RUC and RUP in order to sell their products. In addition, it implements the system of “traceability” which means that they will require compliance with an endless number of requirements (vaccinations, veterinary records, etc.) to market their products, thus restricting the access of farmers to markets.

In contrast, the large economic groups have not been affected. While initially the government engaged in rhetoric against the excesses of speculative capital, this is one of the sectors of the economy that has grown during this period. In 2011, bank profits grew by 51 percent compared to 2010, posting profits of US$ 439 million between January and October 2011.

Similarly, it should be noted that the 62 strongest economic groups account for 41 percent of GDP, which rose from US$ 529 million in 2006 (before Correa) to US$ 701 million in 2009, growing by 54 percent more than under previous neoliberal governments.

This growth was driven, among other things, by the injection of resources into the economy from public spending, with the state acting as a lever of accumulation for large corporate groups. For example, look at the companies involved in government programs. In the street markets or “citizen fairs”: La Fabril, Panadería California, Nirsa, Ingenio La Troncal, Huevos Casanova, Fideos Toscana, Avícola Fernández, Big Cola, Rey Leche, La Europea, Supermercados de carnes Orellana, Huevos Hércules, Salitre rice mill. In the “general partner” program: Danec, La Fabril, Epacem, Nirsa, Zaimella, Quicornac, Tiosa, El Ordeño, Pronaca, among others. Meanwhile these products are also sold in major supermarket chains (Supermaxi, My Commissariat, Tia).

Among the policies being promoted for the benefit of powerful economic groups, particularly agricultural exporters, is the negotiation of a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Despite the increase in the State budget from US$ 6 billion in 2006 to US$ 21,000 million in 2011, and with the adoption of a series of policies in this area, socially we can see that in the period of the current government (2006-2010) the reduction of poverty as measured by income has stagnated. From 2003 to 2006 poverty was reduced by 12.3 points, extreme poverty by 9.7 points, and from 2007 to 2010, 3.9 points, and extreme poverty by only 3.4 points. At the same time, according to ECLAC, internal inequality increased in 2010 to 0.54 (Gini coefficient). In indigenous populations, the income poverty rate reached 65.8 percent and the illiteracy rate still stands at 20.4 percent.

Moreover, the high cost of living continues to impoverish Ecuadorian families. The minimum wage for workers amounts to US$ 292, and does not cover the family budget, which amounts to US$ 578.04  (2011).

Despite the passage of legislation to extend constitutional guarantees and social rights, public policy has restricted rights in employment and education. In terms of work it has restricted the right to collective bargaining, labor stability, organization and free association, creating new forms of labor flexibility, resulting in a regression of labor rights that historically has been conquered. In education,  the adoption of the Higher Education Act restricted the constitutional right of free access to higher education, university autonomy is destroyed, and co-government eliminated. Bilingual education has not been provided with the constitutional provisions and basic services are lacking that are necessary for a quality education.

As part of post-neoliberal discourse, using the symbols of the left and the revolution, the government has recovered the state apparatus that was dismantled under neoliberalism. But that recovery has focused on executive functions and in particular the President of the Republic, which is characterized as repressive, racist, sexist, and undemocratic, and that is benefiting and governing for the same powerful groups, trying to disrupt and discredit the collective actors and social organizations that stand against the deployment of that model.

About 500 comrades are facing prosecution for acting in defense of social rights and those of nature, in many cases facing charges of sabotage, terrorism and conspiracy, which shows a systematic policy of criminalization of popular organizations.

This process has exploited the constitutional mandate of plurinationality based on its interests, deepening capitalist economic model and distorting a proposal for a Plurinational State that does not simply mean acknowledging the existence of nationalities and peoples, but a profound change in economic, political, and social structures of the country.

For all these reasons, we mobilize to demand:

A change of development model to build a model of food sovereignty, which is the basis of a truly intercultural and plurinational state.

1) No to large-scale mining. Compliance with the Mining Mandate. Require the Constitutional Court to resolve the breach of that mandate. Repeal of the Mining Act as unconstitutional. Nullify the mining contract signed on March 5 between the national government and the company ECSA Ecuacorriente.

2) No extension of the oil frontier in the Amazon. Suspension of the Tenth and Eleventh Petroleum Rounds. Respect for the self-determination of uncontacted peoples, and the enforcement of interim measures ordered by the human rights commission (CIDH). Guarantee for non-exploitation of the ITT and 31 blocks for being within the Yasuni National Park and Waorani ancestral territory. Repair and environmental restoration of areas affected by the oil industry, and justice in the Chevron Texaco case.

3) Not to mega hydroelectric and multipurpose projects.

4) Approval of the Water Act for Good Living, which provides for respect for the priority of the functions of water, ensuring the human right to water through the establishment of free and minimum support, the creation of the Water Fund, prohibition of environmental services, which respect the rights of nature in terms of pollution and waste, to generate tools for de-privatization of water and its redistribution, and to respect and strengthen community management of water with the participation of communities and organizations, and the construction of the Intercultural and Plurinational Water Council.

5) Approval of the Law of Land and Territories, which include the construction of an agricultural model for food sovereignty based on peasant production, promoting community ownership and partnership, to sanction the latifundia and the concentration of land, and demands fulfillment of its social and environmental functions; redistribution of land to landless peasants, giving priority to women and youth, and to help rebuild deprived territories; the implementation of a program of agricultural development for food sovereignty by ensuring access to technology and rural industry, establishing support prices and fighting the monopoly of food marketing, strengthening the trade and business associations and community gathering, processing and marketing, and creating the Intercultural and Plurinational Agricultural Council to democratize public policy in agriculture. Immediate implementation of the mandate of the twenty-seventh constitutional transient water audit.

6) Do not sign free trade agreements. Immediate suspension of negotiations on FTA with the European Union.

7) Effective protection of popular and peasant economies against taxes. Reform of the Tax Equity Act, the Land Code and other taxing popular and peasant economies, and the intensification of the policy of taxing big business as an instrument of redistribution.

8) No to livestock cartels. Repeal of Article 515 of COOTAD and other legal and administrative provisions.

9) Recognition of community transport. Reform of the Law of Land Transport, Traffic and Road Safety.

10) Protection and strengthening of social security (IESS). Demand payment of the debt that the state has with the IESS, as well as equipment, rehabilitation and provision of adequate medicines in all provinces, according to the requirements of its members. Approval of the special scheme for self-employed social security. Women’s retirement after 25 years. Social security for housewives.

11) Respect for labor rights (job security, free trade union, right to collective bargaining). Repeal of Decree 813 and reinstate workers with required resignations (unwarranted dismissals).

12) Reinstatement of the rights of Children and Youth to education. No to the single comprehensive high school (BGU), full implementation of the right of free admission to universities, autonomy, academic freedom and university co-government. Reform of the Law of Intercultural Education. Defense of the rights of community mothers, teachers to a teacher training day. Restoring the rights of peoples and nationalities to intercultural education.

13) Respect for the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights, the sovereignty of the bodies and sexual identity. Approval of Comprehensive Criminal Code reforms to guarantee these rights and codify femicide. Adoption of legislation to adopt policies to ensure equality between women and men and the institutionalization of gender equality, to achieve a life free from violence and access to justice with equal conditions.

14) Democratization of communication. Approval of the Communications Act that addresses the fundamental principles of real democratization and to ensure a plurinational and intercultural communication, equitable distribution of frequencies: 33 percent for public media, 33 percent for private media, and 34 percent for community media (organizations, communities, peoples and nationalities, respecting their own rights), the exercise of universal communication without needing a professional title, and freedom of opinion and information circulating in social networks.

15) No to the criminalization of social protest. General amnesty to those tried in the courts. Elimination of criminal cases that criminalize social protest.

16) Compliance with the right to free, prior and informed pre -legislative consent. Adoption of the Organic Law of Consultation of Communes, Communities, Peoples and Nationalities of Ecuador, respecting the provisions of ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

17) Respect for the judicial functions of the administration of Indigenous justice.

18) Immediate restoration of Indigenous institutions: DINEIB, Intercultural Health, Development Council of Peoples and Nationalities, and the Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities, guaranteeing their autonomy.

19) An immediate cessation of attempts to divide and co-opt certain leaders of peoples and nationalities, and social movements, by the government. No to verbal, psychological, and physical aggression against members of communities, peoples, nationalities, and organizations.