|English | Español||April 23, 2018 | Issue #26|
Ecuador: Democracy Under Construction
Part II: The “Minga” for Life, with Miguel Lluco and Nina Pacari
By Luis A Gómez - reporting from Ecuador
November 22, 2002
Publisher’s January 12 Update: When Luis Gómez interviewed indigenous leader and member of Congress Nina Pacari last November (2nd interview, scroll down), we knew she was someone special and important to the next government in Ecuador. What we did not know has just been announced: She is now Ecuador’s new Secretary of State, and this has serious consequences for those who hoped to illegally use the Manta airbase in the Plan Colombia U.S. military intervention, and for the drug war and other policies in the region. A new era in South American diplomacy begins.
The Ecuadorian oligarchy’s days are counted… Its impune rein is coming to its end. In this country the people work collectively to cultivate the land, clean a street or beautify the town or the neighborhood… that, according to the Quechua culture, is called “minga.” Now, in a minga that includes the popular sectors and the middle classes, the intellectuals and the patriotic soldiers, Ecuador is at the point of sweeping away its dirty and all-powerful bases of political power. On Sunday they will have to listen to the silent voices of the vote and Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez will arrive at the Presidency of the Republic… but he won’t be alone, he will not be delegated absolute power…
In this second part of our series of reports about Ecuador, we’d like to introduce you to the most solid and advanced sector in the alliance that supports Gutiérrez: the Pluri-national Pachakutik-New Country Movement. Don Miguel Lluco and Nina Pacari, leaders, authorities who come from below and just in time for what can be considered a special political and social vanguard for our América, have agreed to tell this story to Narco News. Have a seat because we’re about to begin…
Photo: D.R. 2002 by Linsey McGoey, Narco News
Miguel Lluco: Constructing the True Power
He’s a small man with a gray mustache and a friendly face, that of a grandfather or old story-teller. He’s 58, and has spent more than thirty of those years fighting for the rights of his brothers and sisters. When they tell don Miguel that a reporter is looking for him, he drops what he is doing without hurry and, smiling, extends his hand without ceremony. This historic popular leader of Ecuador speaks with frequent pauses, trying to make sure that each word is felt on the inside of his interviewer, and (attention, kind readers), his special use of the word “we” is evidence that, not just as a leader, he expresses the profound sense of collectivity that he possesses.
Don Miguel Lluco has been a congressman and president of the National Indigenous Federation of Ecuador (CONAI in its Spanish initials), and now its members have designated him as national coordinator of the Pluri-national Pachakutik-New Country Movement, noting, “that’s why I haven’t accepted any electoral post.” He presents himself with rigor, this Quechua (or Kichwa, as they themselves tend to call it) from Chimborazo agrees to bring us up to date…
Narco News: Some years ago, when the CONAIE entered the electoral struggle, you said that was done because it was about – it is about – a minga for life. Can you tell me where this minga is going?
Miguel Lluco: In Ecuador, the organizing process has been collective. In these last thirty years there has been a very dynamic process. There has been an organizational advance, but also we have advanced politically, and inside of that there is a very significant presence by indigenous peoples, and also the urban popular sector and others, like intellectuals, teachers, women, youths and the Afro-Ecuadorians. This minga has come from a joining together by actors who have an expressive presence in the fight accompanied by proposals. The fight for life appeared during a 1997 occupation: we occupied a hacienda in the rural region of Chimborazo, and we put up a sign with this idea because we feel that the earth is Mother, and caring for us, it gives us life, its fruits. But not only the human beings, but also the microbes, birds, animals, plants, trees, mountains… that’s to say, look, a matter of living together with living beings. When we speak of the fight for life it joins all these things together.
Narco News: Has the nature of the political participation by the indigenous in this country changed since the events that resulted in the revolt of January 21, 2000?
Miguel Lluco: I would say that there has been a growth in our proposals. In 1993 we had already elaborated our political project. There, we proposed what Ecuador should be, the constitutional and legal changes that had to be made, the political and administrative changes of our State. And I think that in this context we value our proposals, attitudes and visions that show that we are right and that’s why we would say that we are improving upon what we had done twenty or thirty years ago.
In this sense, I tell you, we’ve achieved an improvement and more visibility. The editorial writers and journalists have begun to ask themselves, “Okay, and the Indians? What do they want? They’ve proposed a pluri-national state. Do they want to divide Ecuador?” Look, I think that we can evaluate this as an aspect of an advance. But we also have to consider that, at the same time, there are a great number of fears, a series of worries because an organic participation of coming together, a coherent consensus among all, doesn’t always happen.
There are visions by interests that don’t correspond with the interests of the majority. Our national presence is clear. And I also believe that we have caused society to be concerned, to look at why things are not going well. Finally, we have to acknowledge with precision that this is not only a matter for Ecuador, it’s a wider matter… in the Civil Societies of different countries there is already this path to walk together. All of this, politically and economically, is the result of the application of neoliberal economic policies.
Narco News: It seems that the Ecuadorian indigenous movement is going to be part of the government. What’s the goal on that front?
Miguel Lluco: We have made a commitment to ourselves. We have said, we say, and we will continue to say that if we don’t make the changes, who is going to do it for us? This is not any other thing than the daily work that stays its course. We are close to becoming the government, and we hope that it will be an instrument for no more than the construction of a true power, so that this power will be at the service of the grand interests of everybody… That is the goal.
What we are doing in Ecuador is new in the world. We have had huge uprisings, mobilizations, walks, marches, occupations, many things… and we have acted in a mass and always respecting life. We have sacrificed many lives but we have never attacked the lives of our enemies. We have been very respectful… We have always thought that here, in this country, the revolution should be democratic… And I believe that this is happening. We hope to make it reality so that, in this small part of the world, hope will shine so that there might be harmony between living beings. These are dreams, of course, utopias… We hope that this grand electoral uprising (we have a lot of experience causing uprisings) will triumph.
The Ecuadorian people have the opportunity not to forget what previous governments have done to us and to vote depositing our confidence in ourselves, because this is about ending our internal problems and also those of this globalized world… This is the goal…”
Before finishing the interview, your ignorant correspondent asks for some details about the life of don Miguel… and we find out that this man has been a migrant worker, that he has shined shoes, that he was a day worker, he worked on the sugar cane plantations, he’s a skilled carpenter… and he’s also been an active militant for human rights in his province, in the center of the country, a collectivist, a leader of a dozen organizations… “We have been very sensitive to the importance of solidarity,” he says… He’s married, he has four kids… “That,” he explains, “would be a synthesis of who is Miguel Lluco… or of where he has been.”
Photo: D.R. 2002 by Linsey McGoey, Narco News
Nina Pacari: Democracy of Flesh and Bone
Nina is a petite woman, dressed in embroidered blouses and long skirts. She wears necklaces and collars of stones and silver, as the indigenous women customarily do. Her voice is strong, her words, precise. She has been an advisor to the indigenous movement and its leader. She has studied in the Central University of Ecuador and obtained her masters degree… a key person in the popular political tapestry and always seen at the side of Lucio Gutiérrez in the meetings and rallies (including those that the candidate of the people recently held in the United States).
Currently, Doctor Pacari (as they respectfully call her in the National Congress) is representative of the state of Chimborazo. From her seat she brings forth legislation that, in addition to benefiting her people, tries to forge a truly democratic change… and although in some political circles it is rumored that she will be a member of the cabinet, her ego is in check, and her cordial tranquility continues being that of a teacher, a godmother, an old friend…
Narco News: A few days from the election, how are the relations between the Pachakutik movement and the Patriotic Society (the political party of Lucio Gutiérrez)? Because there are reports of some divisions between you…
Nina Pacari: To begin with, we are distinct allies and each with different ways of doing things. Better said, the Patriotic Society and Lucio Gutiérrez were born from the work of the Indians on January 21, 2002. And we have accumulated our politics, speaking at least of Pachakutik, over the course of a decade. But if we speak of the entire indigenous movement, we bring thirty years to this process in the role of bringing the ideas forward into results, that began by questioning the model of the State and the need to construct anew, and by hand, a different way of exercising power. Thus, being two distinct forms of birth, of different organizations, we have created an alliance and there’s a potential. That’s why we’re in the second round of the election.
But there is a limit, and that’s where the agreements can be made concrete. And it’s a fact that being our presidential candidate of the Patriotic Society party, not everything is 100 percent in agreement, not in speech nor in action…
We begin from here with basic agreements. In the strategic and operational management of the campaign, including of the platform, we have had to sit, converse and fine-tune again and again, so that nobody forgets from where it comes and why it is where it is. That has been what we’ve attempted on various occasions: we have surpassed some problems and I would say most of them… but at times the campaign is out of our control, the control of everyone, when spontaneous acts try to appropriate us or stop us… every once in a while we have to clear the path. In all cases we have be conscious that it’s our turn to clear the path, not only because of divine right, but because those who have managed political and economic power aren’t going to allow us to do it ourselves. Rather, they are going to say, “we can’t let you take away what we have and, besides, we want more.” And we are going to tell them: “The buck stops here and we have to make priorities regarding the benefits, with a sense of solidarity, toward new policies that bring a fair and just development.” In this dynamic we have surpassed difficulties and, in all ways, we are advancing in the process.
Narco News: It seems like there was a discussion in Ecuador about the agreements with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the position of your alliance. What happened?
Nina Pacari: In the visit that the IMF officials made the central goal was that, regarding the speculation its policies have provoked – at times very irresponsibly – our opponent (Álvaro Noboa, the richest man in Ecuador) to speak of the economic resources that are leaving the country, and has made all of them outside the country afraid… well, it was necessary to say to these strangers in our own voice what is the platform of Lucio Gutiérrez and that was done. Lucio hasn’t come to any agreement because he is still not president. But the important thing is that outside of the country he said the same things he says here. For example, “We are going to respect the legal agreements, but if they attack us…”
It’s like in the case of the Manta air base, that was one of the questions they asked us: “What will be done about that?” And he said, “If the base is used for some other purpose not covered by the treaty, it will necessarily have to be repealed,” because the security of legal agreements does not mean impunity or the straying from a contract. This seems important to me, because we are going to respect the legal agreement, but we are not going to violate national sovereignty or national interests. And if the established agreement is broken, we will have to revise it.
Narco News: With whom did you speak of this in the United States?
Nina Pacari: That theme came up more in the forums, because the IMF dealt with economic questions, or in the case of the State Department there had been concerns about “Chávez”… Everywhere, they said, “You seem like Chávez.” Thus, he said, correctly, that every individual is distinct: the style of Ecuador and the reality of Ecuador and that of Venezuela. And one is going to act from that reality and not from the adoption of another. Now, what we can not disregard is that the reality across Latin America is similar – extreme poverty, high corruption – and this is not a question of covering it up by saying “I am or I am not,” but, rather, we speak of a common reality that if the corresponding measures are not taken there is going to be a result that already won’t be of our making.
Narco News: You’re speaking of postures without negotiation, without concessions?
Nina Pacari: The social realities that exist are giving us signals that there are new and better conditions to be able to negotiate in relation to the foreign debt, at least in relation to the IMF… If not, we consider the experience of Argentina, that is occurring without the IMF… and in the case of Ecuador, for example, if we review this year’s budget, twenty percent is to pay off debts of monies that have not reached the entire country except in droplets and at times with blackmail. We believe that is the matter that must be stopped and we are going to organize our own economy, because Ecuador has potential, natural resources, oil, mines and agriculture, diversity in every way.
And being, still, a matter of potential, in the economic perspective, how is it possible that we live in such poverty? Is it because we lack fairness and advantages are given to those who already have more. Generally, the State is a mirror of this. In Latin America, Ecuador is the country that invests the most in people who already have, as in the case of the bank bailout… What is lacking is better organization, and a more democratic criteria in the economy. With clean hands and will we can lay the basis, in our new government, from that perspective, of a new way of doing things politically.
Narco News: How will this be achieved? What will be the Pachakutik Movement’s role?
Nina Pacari: We need an integrated vision to find the strategic spaces for action. Looking at all of this to decide from what angle the Pachakutik Movement can have an effect, can demonstrate the style and substance, that, yes, it is possible to begin to construct. It is necessary to study this. We have not moved forward yet because first we have to win, although neither will we ignore it. There is an agreement with Lucio Gutiérrez that beginning on December 15th we are going to announce the names of who will lead the new government. And we speak of construction, from below, because not only do we want our role to be sustainable within national territory (in the 27 towns and cities that we already govern, for example), but also sustainable over time… I don’t believe that this is about coming to power and staying four years… as some sectors say: “we have to arrive and stay there.” We will stay until things change… That’s why our manner of working, that is so different, in form and content, is so important…
Narco News: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nina Pacari: I would like to say that, above all, in the Northern region (the United States, Canada, the developed countries) they talk alot about demcoracy, but they only want it if it follows their model. And what must not be permitted is that if we are democratic, if there are other forms of democracy that enrich the cultural and political realms and the very same democracy, that they must not prevent us from doing it. That’s why we speak of inclusive and multi-ethnic democracy, of a process of construction, because nothing is yet done. And as we have been excluded we are going to include ourselves. Democracy must be of flesh and bone, including in economic and social development.
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