Luis Macas - Ecuador's indigenous candidate - "to weave a different fabric"
Article & interview from Upside Down WOrld:
The powerful Ecuadorian indigenous movement faces one of its biggest challenges yet in the October 15th presidential elections – for the first time they are presenting their own candidate. For them it is not about winning, it is about continuing the indigenous struggle after a great crisis. When the Ecuadorian indigenous movement backed a candidate in the last presidential elections, it was a huge victory that quickly turned into a disaster.
In 2002 Pachakutik, the political arm of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), formed an alliance with Lucio Gutierrez, former coup leader, military man, and a fierce anti-neoliberal. Gutierrez won. Four Pachakutik members were appointed ministers, most notably the indigenous foreign minister, Nina Pacari. Yet only a few months after taking office, Gutierrez shifted to the political right and signed deals with the IMF, thus continuing the country’s neoliberal track. At the same time, he began to subvert the indigenous movement from within.
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Leftwing candidate Rafael Correa, recognizing the importance of the indigenous vote, invited Pachakutik into an electoral alliance and promised the vice-presidency, if elected. But after lengthy discussions and analysis, the indigenous movement opted to run their own candidate: Luis Macas. He co-founded CONAIE in 1986 and is one of the movement’s most important personalities. He organized the 1990 uprisings and was the first indigenous man elected to parliament in 1996. Macas served as Minister of Agriculture in the Gutierrez government until Pachakutik pulled out in 2003.
[from the interview]:
. . . We are in this because we are constructing a solid process from the roots, a political project with our own hands, using our own minds. This is how we will advance. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose.
RG: Your most important proposal is the creation of a plurinational state – why is this necessary?
LM: It comes from a critique of the established political system. The political institutions here are exactly the same as the ones that were constructed in Europe. There hasn’t been a contribution from the social and historical processes from here. We speak thirteen languages in this country, we are thirteen nationalities here, but these are not recognized by the state, and they are not reflected in the educational system.
We want a state that covers everyone, that reflects the sociopolitical, cultural, and regional reality in this country, where every nationality can express their fundamental cultural, political, and historical rights. What we have now is a colonial state, an exclusionary state, a uninational state that says that the culture is this, the official language is that, etc.
RG: Will this not just split the country in thirteen small states?
LM: We are not seeking to atomize the country, not at all. What we are saying is that every ethnic group should have the right to exercise their territorial and political rights and decide how they organize themselves. The way different peoples exercise democracy should be in accordance with their own process, not homogenic. Another thing is diversity. We don’t see participation of women, or of the youth. They need to exercise their rights too.
Everyone in Ecuador says they want national unity, but how? By putting everyone in the same sack? By imposing the same way of living on everyone? I don’t think so. What we want for this country is unity in diversity, for if this doesn’t exist, the unity is in danger. We need to establish, little by little, a different coexistence between the whites, the white-mestizos, the indio-mestizos, the blacks in the context of mutual respect. We call it: "to weave a different fabric."
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RG: In your election rallies you talk about that we live in a global crisis that is the absence of self recognition, absence of human values and community. What do you mean by that?
LM: I am talking about the crisis that people who belong to a certain culture, a certain identity, are going through. Modernity is finishing off the identities that exist in the world, not only the small indigenous peoples in our region. I see it as a true plague, really. Because when you don’t have the possibility of doing what you have always done, to stay in your territory, when economic hardships forces you to move away to find a way to survive, this provokes the decomposition of the family, the decomposition of the community. It makes you a different being. You are no longer part of the community you were before, you have to dress differently, you have to eat other things, you have to act differently. The value, for example, of learning collectively disappears when you are displaced.
That is why I say that the ruling economic model—neo-liberalism—is perverse. It will definitively finish off the indigenous cultures. And this economic model is much more perverse when it arrives in indigenous communities. When the World Bank and the Interamerican Bank (IADB) and others come and say: "This is what we will do so these people can develop themselves…" –even though it is foreign to the people’s vision. We are obviously, in these moments, in great danger.
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We don’t want to happen to us, what happened in Cuba, for instance, in the early nineties. Cuba got so accustomed to receiving everything from the former Soviet Union. And when the Soviet Union fell, it left an enormous crisis in Cuba. We don’t want that. And we don’t want what happened in Mexico when the US came with their corn. Now there are ten million people unemployed.