Ecuadorian bishops call on government, natives to dialogue about free trade agreement

.- The Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador has called on that country’s government to act deliberately on the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, and not to provoke confrontations that only endanger the country.

In a statement signed by the president of the Conference, Bishop Nestor Herrera, the bishops warned that confrontations between the two sides do nothing to help maintain harmony among Ecuadorians.

“We accept (the government’s) principle that recourse to violence must be abandoned before there can be dialogue, but we also believe that this principle is valid in normal circumstances--not in an explosive situation such as the one we are experiencing,” the bishops stated.

The bishops emphasize that their mediation in the conflict is not in response to an invitation by either one of the parties, although last Wednesday they did pass on a proposal by the Confederation to the government, which promptly rejected it.

The indigenous communities that make up the Confederation launched a series of protests and roadblocks after the Ecuadorian government announced it would enter into free trade negotiations with the United States.

After several days of protests, Confederation leaders announced a momentary halt to the demonstrations.  The Ecuadorian government said it would maintain a state of emergency in the provinces where protests are being held.

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