Revista Yachaikuna
Working Papers
Boletin ICCI Rimai
A monthly publication of the Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)
Year 1, No. 5, August 1999

General Edition: Pablo Davalos
Editorial Direction: Luis Macas
Design: Rocamadour
Electronic Edition: Marc Becker


También disponible en español.

A genuine national dialogue is needed to overcome the crisis

Luis Macas

On balance, recent political and social events are positive, such as the Ecuadorian peoples' capacity for calling on and bringing people together and for acting in the face of the Government's obstinacy and the violence it used in a vain attempt to silence the cries of protest that echoed in central squares, roads, valleys and throughout highlands.

It was an expression of the profound ancestral wisdom that demanded fundamental structural changes (as opposed to a regionalist discourse) and really demonstrated that the situation in the country could not be reduced to purely institutional relations; that political trivialities and compromises would not resolve the crisis; that grand negotiations and submission to external powers would only deepen the crisis; that authoritarian and dictatorial monologues have never had positive results.

We want to stress that the people and social organizations as the permanent principal actors that have contributed to resolving conflicts over governance, a problem that current political situation has yet to resolve. The contributing factors underling the crisis and the mechanisms for resolving it, identified with a historical process that conforms to our reality, are what differentiate the majority of people from other groups that represent the selfish interests of those who are both the beneficiaries and the cause of the crisis.

In this way the recent peoples' uprising is a call for a great national dialogue, an endogenous recognition of diversity, of the opening up and début of interculturalism (the dialogue between cultures) and the political will to share the same table face-to-face, given that we have lived with our backs to each other for five hundred years.

It's now necessary to recognize the real value of dialogue. Dialogue is not an empty phrase, it's not just a theoretical concept nor is it just for politicians. Dialogue, for all the indigenous nationalities and peoples, constitutes an irreplaceable social and historical dimension which is also fundamental to the enormous organizational development of the Ecuadorian indigenous movement. The value of dialogue lies in it being a method for establishing harmonic relations and coexistence between peoples.

This dimension enables people to seek consensus, reach agreements and unity, in the same way as dissention, criticism and self-criticism is also witnessed in any genuine dialogue. The coming together of interests obviously requires to be based on some common interest that includes a deep element for the common good.

The June 1990 indigenous uprising contained important elements such as a number of demands legitimized by its territorial scope, and policies of interest to the whole of society, such as establishing a dignified and 'plurinational' State.

What's more, the singular eruption of a social sector - the indigenous peoples - who had traditionally been forgotten or ignored by the State and reactionary groups of power was the most important event in the country's recent history.

What was transcendental about this uprising and the lessons it provided concerning the State and society in general was the reinstatement of the practice of dialogue, which had been forgotten due to neglect or lack of political will.

One of the intrinsic elements of indigenous peoples' daily coexistence is dialogue (rimanacui) and participatory democracy (tucio pura) of all community members in decision-making and political control of their leaders and organizations.

During the 1990 indigenous uprising and the ensuing dialogue, Ecuador and the world witnessed the following qualitative and quantitative institutional values:

  • Willingness for a transparent, open and public dialogue based on mutual respect and conditions of equality;

  • An agenda for the dialogue, known as a Mandate, drafted through consensus of the indigenous movement's grassroots;

  • The active participation of all the representatives of the indigenous nationalities and peoples in the Mandate;

  • The presence of the country's President and representatives of all the main State institutions in the dialogue;

  • The participation of the Ecuadorian Catholic church;

  • The indirect participation of society in general through the mass media, despite the media's well-known limitations.

However, in the context of the way politics is conducted in the country and even within the organizational practices of some social sectors, there appears to be no culture of dialogue. In fact, monologues, impositions, manipulation and misinformation are prevalent.

In order to understand the outcome of the evolution of the present relations between the State and the indigenous movement, two points have to analyzed.

On one hand, there are the social and political conditions in which the indigenous movement has evolved. That is, weakened political action and internal cohesion following the repression by a government that was later removed of its functions.

The circumstances that have weakened the dialogue are due to adverse conditions as regards the qualitative and quantitative participation of the indigenous organizations, which resulted in illegitimatizing the process and have decreased its practical contents, in this way dissipating the chances for developing more positive conditions for effective action.

Consequently, the Government's malicious behavior, based on a paternalistic attitude that sought to co-opt a number of indigenous leaders and other individuals as a means of strengthening its position. Its real aim was to turn the whole of the indigenous movement into its support, silencing it, paralyzing its actions and dismantling its strength and power.

This explains the unilateral institutionalization of the dialogue through an Executive decree. The total lack of volition to accept endogenous values and mutual learning between Ecuadorians deepens and maintains the centuries-old refusal to recognize diversity and perpetuate prejudices established in the colonial period against the Other.

On the other hand, when the Ecuadorian indigenous movement appears to the world with a proposal for a "unity in diversity", it is proposing a new form of knowledge and understanding through dialogue and mutual respect. It is therefore imperative for the indigenous movement to deepen the "culture of dialogue" between cultures, in other words, "intercultural dialogue". From consensus on national issues obviously generated by progressive social sectors and democratic institutions, new alternative proposals and projects will be born that our country needs.

It's vitally important to break the impasse and to seek a minimum common platform. In this sense, it's healthy to begin considering and rethinking our country's indigenous peoples' historical practices and experiences. There's so much to learn.

However, there's still a generalized attitude of refusing to recognize the Other and to practice a form of 'dialogue' which is really just a monologue imbued with authoritarianism and misinformation. What's more, if we think back to the historical and traditional concept that has characterized the present 'democratic' system, we can see a number of interrelated factors in everyday use: lack of respect, social prejudices, injustice, racism, exclusion, contempt for our own history and ancestral memory.

For these reasons, at the threshold of the third millenium and when the Government, faced with a great national mobilization last July, suggests 'round tables' for dialogue, it is necessary to propose a new form of dialogue that breaks with the old and still current model of political and economic domination; that leads to opening up the whole of society to a 're-encounter' with the Other; that genuinely democratizes our society; that decolonizes our minds and lays the basis for a truly democratic, tolerant, just and 'pluri-national' society.

Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)

Address: Buenos Aires 1028 y Estados Unidos
Quito, Ecuador

P.O. Box: 17-15-50B
Tel/Fax 593-2-2229-093
E-mail: icci@waccom.net.ec

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