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Date: Sun, 15 Mar 98 00:08:57 CST
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: ECUADOR: Indians Demand Recognition as Autonomous Nationalities
Article: 30064
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.12244.19980317001535@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 516.0 **/
** Topic: ECUADOR: Indians Demand Recognition as Autonomous Nationalities **
** Written 3:23 PM Mar 13, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

Indians Demand Recognition as Autonomous Nationalities

By Mario Gonzalez, IPS
10 March 1998

QUITO, Mar 10 (IPS) - The leaders of Ecuador's 11 indigenous communities have sparked a broad-based debate with their call for the new constitution to recognise native groups as autonomous nationalities.

The proposal put forth by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) will be discussed over the next few days by the National Assembly, a body elected in December to draw up a new constitution.

The top indigenous leaders from Ecuador's mountainous, coastal and Amazon jungle areas started to meet this week with academics, politicians, and representatives of the business community, the armed forces and the Catholic Church, "in search of a basic consensus on our proposal to declare Ecuador a multi-ethnic state consisting of several nationalities," CONAIE president Antonio Vargas told IPS.

According to CONAIE figures, 35 percent of Ecuador's 4.2 million people are members of an indigenous community.

But Vargas said there were more areas of disagreement than shared viewpoints on the "touchy" issue. "That is why we are trying, in the first place, to wipe out the misunderstandings that have grown up around the idea of a state comprised of a number of nationalities," he added.

The CONAIE proposal is seeking "recognition of diversity of cultures, languages and ways of thinking and behaving," as well as the legitimacy of different forms of administering justice and resources, in autonomous territories.

The proposal was put forth in October, after some 15,000 indigenous representatives from throughout the country gathered in Quito to hammer out a proposal for the National Assembly.

The question has been debated in a number of social forums since then. But it has shot into the spotlight today, as the National Assembly gets ready to turn to the issue.

According to Fabian Corral, the dean of the University of San Francisco of Quito's law school, the indigenous proposal "runs counter to the concept of the nation-state," which has given Ecuador its identity.

"If we're talking about a multicultural country where the existence of various cultures and languages is recognised, I agree. But to talk about many nations within one nation is contradictory," he said.

Corral pointed out that the Ecuadorian constitution "already takes multiculturalism into account."

He added that "the indigenous proposal goes against their own peoples, because recognition (of a state comprised of many nationalities) in the constitution would tend to dissipate a sense of identity."

Ruis Navas, the president of the Episcopal Conference, stressed the need for precise definitions, "because the term nationality has different meanings."

The concept of a country consisting of several nationalities is based on "a series of legal and political suppositions that cannot be applied in a state like Ecuador," according to parliamentarian and National Assembly member Marcelo Santos of the right-wing (christian democratic) Social Christian Party (PSC), Ecuador's leading party.

Santos maintained that it would be more appropriate to speak of a "diverse" state, a definition that would recognise the coexistence of "black, indigenous and 'mestizo' cultures and peoples" within Ecuador.

But the concept of a country comprised of various nationalities " does not aim to introduce in the constitution the existence of several nations within one state, but simply underline that differences are recognised and respected by means of an adequate legal framework," said Nina Pacari, a National Assembly member representing the indigenous Pachakutik movement.

Ecuador's indigenous people are seeking "improved distribution of budget resources, which would provide, for example, appropriate education to the different groups, in their languages and with their customs," Pacari added.


Origin: Montevideo/ECUADOR/

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