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Leonidas Iza, the indigenous leader who challenges power in Ecuador

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Published on: 06/24/2022 – 12:36 President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), Leonidas Iza is one of the most influential indigenous politicians in Latin America. At the head of the protest movement which has partially paralyzed the capital Quito since June 13, the anti-capitalist leader is stubbornly demanding relief in the cost of living for rural communities. Wrapped in his eternal red poncho, Leonidas Iza is the face of the massive mobilization that has cornered Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso for almost two weeks. Inflexible and charismatic, the indigenous leader impresses with his fiery speeches which galvanize the demonstrators, nearly 14,000 men and women, spears and sticks in hand, determined to bring down the Conservative government. Either the head of state agrees to implement the measures demanded by the indigenous movement to alleviate the cost of living, either he and his people will remain in Quito, a city that has been semi-paralyzed for more than ten days.” If the President of the Republic responds to our demands, we will leave the same day”, promised Leonidas Iza on June 13, at the start of the demonstrations. Otherwise, “we will continue the movement for an unlimited period”. Stubborn and stubborn, the activist is accused by the government of being an “anarchist”, but the indigenous peoples see him as a faithful defender of their causes. “Indo-American Communism” The indigenous leader rose to prominence in 2019 during major anti-austerity protests in Ecuador. Along with Jaime Vargas Vargas, another indigenous politician, Leonidas Iza led a protest movement in October against then-President Lenin Moreno’s decision to end fuel subsidies. the 2019 protests is proving essential. This “black October” – as the middle and upper classes of Quito call it – is told by Leonidas Iza himself in a book he co-wrote, “Estallido” (“brilliance”). The book is an anti-capitalist plea advocating an “Indo-American communism”. Its references are Dolores Cacuango and Transito Amaguaña, pioneers in the fight for indigenous rights in the middle of the 20th century. He also willingly quotes the great thinkers of the Latin American left such as Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, author of “Open Veins of Latin America”, an indictment against the exploitation of the subcontinent since the arrival of the first settlers. Spaniards.Humble origins and militancyBorn in 1982 in the community of San Ignacio, in the province of Cotopaxi, Leonidas Iza, 39, is a Kichwa of the Panzaleo people, originally from the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes. Coming from a modest family, he was the only one of eight siblings to study at university, where he took agronomy courses. As a teenager, he became involved in the movement for the rights of indigenous. A natural rebelliousness which he inherited. “My mother, Rosa Elvira [Salazar], had a rebellious spirit”, he confided in an interview. “She was always in community actions, in mobilizations.” As for her father, he says that he transmitted to her an “honesty to all ordeal”. Activism is the driving force of Leonidas Iza, whose wife is a teacher in a community school. He has long been a member of organizations and associations linked to the Catholic Church, before leading the Union of Peasant Organizations North Cotopaxi (Unocan).Heading the Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi (Micc), he is a candidate in 2021, with two other Kichwas, for the presidency of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), spearheading demonstrations and the largest organization of indigenous peoples in the country.”Campaign Advocate”After the 2019 protests, his name is mentioned as a possible candidate of the Pachakutik indigenous party for the presidency of Ecuador. The 2021 presidential candidate will ultimately be t Yaku Pérez, who came third in the first round with 19.39% of the vote, and narrowly eliminated by the candidate Lasso (19.74%). The powerful Ecuadorian indigenous movement, which represents one million of the 17.7 million inhabitants of the country, thus came very close to power, no doubt contributing to the political frustration of the natives of the country. [le gouvernement] are breaking the farmers” and proposes to reduce oil projects to make Ecuador an agricultural power.>> To see and read on France 24: Ecuador: a “Toxic Tour” to raise awareness of the damage caused by oil company ChevronThe indigenous leader and his supporters are now demanding the reduction of fuel prices, the renegotiation of bank loans granted to peasants or even the control of the prices of agricultural products. But, beyond these demands in favor of a easing the cost of living for rural communities hard hit by inflation, Leonidas Iza wants to restore to indigenous peoples the power of times gone by, when, through their popular uprisings, they overthrew presidents.Between 1997 and 2005, three heads of the Ecuadorian state were forced to resign under pressure from indigenous organizations. With AFP

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