Bishops call for dialogue, offer help amid Ecuador protests

Demonstrators clash with riot police, nearby El Ejido park, in Quito, on June 24, 2022, in the framework of indigenous-led protests against the government. Demonstrators clash with riot police, nearby El Ejido park, in Quito, on June 24, 2022, in the framework of indigenous-led protests against the government. - Ecuador's government and Indigenous protesters accused each other of intransigence as thousands gathered for a 12th day of a fuel price revolt that has claimed six lives and injured dozens. After the most violent day of the campaign so far -- with police firing tear gas to disperse thousands storming Congress -- the government accused protesters of shunning a peaceful outcome. | Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

The bishops of Ecuador have called for dialogue in order to reach an agreement between the government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which is leading nationwide protests that have left six dead.

“On behalf of the Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference, I wish to reaffirm our heartfelt call for the parties involved, setting aside any extreme position, to sit down to dialogue, to listen to each other, to reflect together and make decisions that benefit the entire country and not just small groups,” said Archbishop Luis Gerardo Cabrera Herrera of Guayaquil, president of the Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference, in a June 22 video message.

“At the same time, we want to commit our participation to what the parties also see fit. The only thing we really want is for the much longed for peace to become a reality between us, a peace always based on justice, freedom and truth,” he added.

Beginning June 13, indigenous organizations have called for an indefinite national strike to demand the reduction of fuel prices and price caps for farm products. The marches have turned violent and protesters have clashed with the police and closed several roads.

Ecuador has recently faced high levels of inflation, unemployment, and poverty.

The initially peaceful protest resulted in a wave of violence and clashes between civilians and security forces that has so far left six dead, 74 injured, and 87 detained. In addition, the highway blockades have exacerbated the economic crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, the leader of Conaie, Leonidas Iza, opposes participating in the talks that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso had already agreed to attend, pointing out that certain conditions must be met, such as lifting the state of emergency in force in six provinces of the country.

Iza was briefly arrested June 14. He is barred from leaving the country, and must appear before an attorney general twice weekly.

The Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, reported June 22 that an attack by indigenous people against police facilities in the city of Puyo left six policemen injured, 18 missing, and 18 police vehicles damaged.

Conaie also denounced abusive tactics used in cracking down against the protests by the police and the military.

Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito also spoke out about the national strike, recalling the words of Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis tells us that it’s not easy to build dialogue, especially if you are divided by rancor. Dialogue is the only possible path, we have told the bishops of Ecuador. Dialogue, as the Pope affirms, must be marked by listening and meekness. It must be a path that is built together,” he explained.

The prelate reminded that "hate and rancor through violence build walls, but assuming this attitude of listening, humility, meekness, builds bridges that unite us."

“I again invite us as archbishop of Quito to take this path of dialogue; that we may know how to listen to each other, because it’s a common goal, the goal is the good of our country. And let's build those bridges to be able to achieve an Ecuador of peace and a better Ecuador,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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