Date: Sun, 15 Mar 98 00:08:57 CST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: ECUADOR: Indians Demand Recognition as Autonomous Nationalities
/** 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
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
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.
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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