Interview with Marlon Santi, New President of Ecuador’s Indigenous Confederation
Written by Patricio Zhingri T.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
And so it goes, that history repeats itself and the day after the revolution anyone is a conservative, I think Hannah Arendt once wrote. The morning after in Ecuador – after the floods – and we know which way the wind blows. For that we don’t need a weather man.
Here is, however, what CONAIE’s new president, Marlon Santi, reckons about the Correan revolution and the reconstructive Constituent Assembly – well no news there, really, it is business as usual:
“PZT: As the new president of CONAIE, how would you evaluate the first year of this government?
MS: Proposals from the Indigenous movement and other social sectors from the coast, highlands, and Amazon are not present on the national government’s political agenda. Nor are they on the agenda of the Constituent Assembly. The government says a lot and they say that they are going to open petroleum explorations, that they are going to privatize water, rivers, páramos (high communal grasslands). Nothing has changed. The only change is when the Indigenous movement rises up, because even in light of this we have made some advances in Collective Rights and other demands. Rafael Correa has not recognized the demands of Indigenous nationalities and peoples, and he should do so.
PZT: How will the government of Indigenous Nationalities and Peoples act with the current government of Correa?
MS: The doors are open for the government, but we will strategize and we will not closely ally with the government. If there are meetings it will be to present the demands of the Indigenous movement. I will not request public positions; with me you will see that. The proposals of Indigenous nationalities and peoples will be presented under a dialogue of diplomacy. If the government responds, good. Otherwise, the bases will respond with action.”
The thing to take note of here is that there is a privatisation movement in Correa’s project and increased resource extraction – not what you’d call very leftist as Reuters always label Correa. But there are also radical redistribution and socialisation initiatives (more teachers, roads for the poor?) in some of Correa’s stuff – and that is why the U.S and the rest of the dominant Euro-American arroganCIA does not like Correa: he is nice to some poor people. “What a monstrous idea – what happened to Darwin and survival of the fittest, –I mean, the poor are lazy and have such poor taste, just look at their choice of housing and the garbage they call food – seriously, they have no taste. Don’t cast perl for swine, init?!?!”
So, no news from the Amazonian front, the struggle justly continues….
The new President of the CONAIE, Ecuador’s national indigenous federation, is a 32-year old Amazonian Kichwa from the small community of Sarayacu. Marlon Santi grew up fighting transnational oil companies in the Amazonian province of Pastaza. Santi’s election signals a return to the CONAIE’s militant roots and a total rejection of oil activity in indigenous territories. Santi promises that the indigenous movement will fight hard for the inclusion of territorial and cultural rights in the new constitution, under the rubric of a plurinational state-including the possibility of a national indigenous uprising.
On February 22nd, just over three weeks after Santi’s inauguration, three men kidnapped and tortured Miriam Cisneros, Marlon Santi’s wife. According to the CONAIE, the men asked Cisneros about the movement’s plans for an indigenous general uprising if the Constituent Assembly refuses to include indigenous demands in the new constitution. She was also asked about the CONAIE’s advisors and international supporters. The identity and motivation of the assailants remains unclear.
Marlon Santi – in his own words:
“I was born in 1976 in Sarayaku. I remember that when it was 12 years old my mom was a leader, my dad was a kuraca (a chief). I learned a lot from them and was already involved in the struggle in the 1980s, against the large petroleum company ARCO. I studied for a while in Quito, but never forgot my principles and family formation, the Mother Earth, my respect for Pachamama, and being an integral part of the community. But recently I have participated in more than 5 years of a strong and rather painful struggle against petroleum invasions, militarisation, and the violation of human rights. During Lucio Gutiérrez’s government, I received 17 warrants for my arrest, persecution, and assassination attempts. I always told Lucio Gutiérrez (ex-president of Ecuador) that I would prefer that he kill me in person so that the people would know that he killed a person fighting for the rights of Indigenous peoples.“
More about Santi and Sarayaku here: