“Don’t drop any more bombs on us, don’t be mean.” The conversation between the young indigenous people and the policemen on horseback, which took place yesterday in the Arbolito park after the forced eviction on Friday, is for a political sociology manual. The agents had strictly complied with the heavy-handed order decreed by President Guillermo Lasso after twelve days of National Strike.
Those who had confronted each other with violence hours before chatted kindly and took photos with the horses, as if it were just another tourist spot. All of them, civilians and uniformed, complained about the prices of oil, meat or gasoline, the same evil that afflicts half the planet. Taking advantage of the situation, one of the agents explained to the protesters that vandals and radicals were hiding among them and that they had even been shot during the clashes.
The political and indigenous heart of Quito, the ground zero of the protests, woke up yesterday with multiple images of the landscape after the battle. Trees uprooted or hacked to serve as barricades, cobblestones everywhere, the taste of tear gas, graffiti screaming in any hole, the floors burned…
Municipal teams tried to alleviate the damage, which has again affected the Comptroller, as happened in 2019. Then this modern facility kept in its bowels the evidence of the Bribery Case, which ended up sentencing former President Rafael Correa to eight years in prison for corruption. The current inertia repeated similar excesses, but this time they failed to set fire to their facilities.
Only 24 hours before, the battle was to the death, as if it were the last day. Everything changed with Lasso’s appearance before the country, in which he announced a strong hand to repel the “violence perpetrated by infiltrated criminals.” The order was to retake control of the country.
“The National Police and the Armed Forces will act with the necessary means to defend public order and democracy,” stressed the former banker, who accused the indigenous leader Leonardo Iza of orchestrating a coup to overthrow him.
“He never wanted to solve an agenda for the benefit of the indigenous peoples and nationalities. The only thing he wanted was to deceive his bases and usurp the legally constituted government,” the president bellowed, determined to take the bull of the protest by the horns. Patricio Carrillo, Minister of the Interior, seconded him to warn that “we are going to be forced to take the next step. We are no longer going to repel, but to repress with the progressive use of force. We are no longer facing protesters by a social demand, but in front of a group of delinquents”.
Said and done. The police and military counteroffensive cornered the protesters for hours, even launching tear gas canisters inside the House of Culture, where hundreds of indigenous people were holding a popular assembly. “We were all indigenous communities, there were girls, pregnant women, wounded. They did not respect anything. We are surrendering and we want to go home. Some want to continue fighting. Many are not going to stay still, but the rumor spread that to start the civil war. We are in the peace shelters, at the Salesian University,” several of those present summed up EL MUNDO, including an instagramer they call IGTV and Miguel Ángel.
Despite the doubts, the leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) yesterday insisted to the media that the national strike continues “indefinitely and nationally.” “We are not going anywhere. We are here. We need to solve the most urgent problems,” stressed Iza, who is facing criticism within the movement and also from the Pachakutik indigenous party, which has split into several blocs. The main question against the radical leader, in addition to his refusal to sit at the dialogue table, is his closeness to Correa, who is also accused of financing the most violent groups.
As the Government highlighted yesterday, the demobilization of the indigenous people was “massive”, despite the declarations of their leaders. “There is a very small number, very very small,” congratulated presidential adviser Diego Ordóñez.
A few meters from the police and in absolute solitude, the young Park, as he wants to be called, raised a handmade banner, addressed especially to the security forces that guarded the territory honorably conquered before: “So much brave without weapons, so much armed coward.”
“The government lies, ignore the media. The strike continues, it has not ended. Lasso was already speaking and they were already bombing us with gases,” the Central University student assured EL MUNDO. After the scuffle, part of the protesters found refuge in the hostels created by the universities, while others took shelter in the south of Quito. Another large group decided to return to their homes in the mountains and in the Amazon.
At noon, a contingent managed to meet at the Central University, waiting to learn about the new roadmap, which was going through the general assembly announced by Iza hours before but nobody knew where it would be held. “Lasso murderer, Lasso murderer! The strike continues!” shouted fifty Amazonian women, protected behind a banner. A long caravan of taxis also called out to the government with the sound of their horns.
The police action on Friday night alerted UNICEF to the presence of children at the Salesian University and at the Central. “We condemn the use of tear gas bombs that affected areas that shelter children, women and the wounded. This is unnecessary and disproportionate. We urge President Guillermo Lasso to reject these actions and respect those areas for humanitarian reasons,” warned Tamara Taraciuk, acting director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
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