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Ecuador: Coup attempt encouraged by Washington

Huge numbers of people took to the streets of Quito, demanding the liberation of their president.

By Mark Weisbrot

October 1, 2010 -- the Guardian -- In June of last year, when the Honduran military overthrew the social-democratic government of Manuel Zelaya, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador took it personally. "We have intelligence reports that say that after Zelaya, I'm next," said Correa.

On September 30, it turned out to be true. Some analysts are still insisting that what happened was just a police protest over possible benefit cuts that got out of hand. But to anyone who watched the prolonged, pitched gun-battle on TV last night, when the armed forces finally rescued President Correa from the hospital where he was trapped by the police, this did not look like a protest. It was an attempt to overthrow the government.

The co-ordinated actions in various cities, the takeover of Quito's airport by a section of the armed forces – all this indicated a planned coup attempt. And although it failed, at various points during the day it was not so clear what the outcome would be.

The government pointed a finger at a former president and army colonel, Lucio Gutierrez, and he was on television yesterday calling for the ousting of Correa. He accused the president of everything from supporting the Farc (the guerilla group fighting Colombia's government), to wrecking the economy.

The coup might have had a chance if Correa were not so popular. Despite his enemies in high places, the president's approval rating was 67% in Quito a couple of weeks ago. His government has doubled spending on healthcare (pdf), significantly increased other social spending, and successfully defaulted on $3.2bn of foreign debt that was found to be illegitimately contracted. Ecuador's economy managed to squeak through 2009 without a recession, and is projected to grow about 2.5% this year. Correa, an economist, has had to use heterodox and creative methods to keep the economy growing in the face of external shocks because the country does not have its own currency. (Ecuador adopted the dollar in 2000, which means that it can do little in the way of monetary policy and has no control over its exchange rate.)

Correa had warned that he might try to temporarily dissolve the congress in order to break an impasse in the legislature, something that he has the right to request under the new constitution – though it would have to be approved by the constitutional court. This probably gave the pro-coup forces something they saw as a pretext. It is reminiscent of the coup in Honduras, when Zelaya's support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was falsely reported by the media – both Honduran and international – as a bid to extend his presidency.

Media manipulation has a big role in Ecuador, too, with most of the media controlled by rightwing interests opposed to the government. This has helped build a base of people – analogous to those who get all of their information from Fox News in the United States, but proportionately larger – who believe that Correa is a dictator trying to turn his country into a clone of communist Cuba.

The US state department issued a two-sentence statement from secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who late Thursday urged "all Ecuadoreans to come together and to work within the framework of Ecuador's democratic institutions to reach a rapid and peaceful restoration of order." Unlike the White House statement in response to the Honduran coup last year, it also expressed "full support" for the elected president. This is an improvement, although it is unlikely that it reflects a change in Washington's policy toward Latin America.

The Obama administration did everything it could to support the coup government in Honduras last year, and, in fact, is still trying to convince the South American governments – including Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and the collective organisation of UNASUR – to recognise the government there. South America refuses to recognise the Lobo government because it was elected under a dictatorship that did not allow for a free or fair contest. The rest of the hemisphere also wants some guarantees that would stop the killing of journalists and political activists there, which has continued and even got worse under the "elected" government.

As the South American governments feared, Washington's support for the coup government in Honduras over the last year has encouraged and increased the likelihood of rightwing coups against democratic left governments in the region. This attempt in Ecuador has failed, but there will be likely be more threats in the months and years ahead.

[Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC. He is also co-writer of Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border.]

Comments

Coup attempt

The latest news is that Correa will not dissolve the Legislative Assembly.

According to Golinger's smear job, groups like CONAIE have US funds "at their disposal". To clarify, both CONAIE and ECUARUNARI, the two largest indigenous groups in the country, have publicly stated their opposition to the coup attempt, as well as their opposition to the right wing and imperialist forces behind the coup. They have also stated that Corea has repeatedly used the police to repress peaceful demonstrations against the despoilation of Indigenous land by foreign mining and oil companies, companies which Correa has chosen to align himself with in violation of the new constitution, which recognizes the rights of Pachamama.

For a good review of Correa's dismal record vis-a-vis the popular forces of his own country, see:https://nacla.org/node/6378

Correa is also the only Ecuadorean president to have disbanded Accion Ecologica. According to Alexis Ponce of APDH, not even Febres Cordero stooped that low.

Pachakutik, on the other hand, has indeed come out in favor of Gutierrez.

Eva Golinger on Ecuador coup

By Eva Golinger, translation by Machetera

October 1, 2010 -- Postcards from the Revolution -- The latest coup attempt against one of the countries in the Bolivarian Alliance For The People of Our America (ALBA) is attempt to impede Latin American integration and the advance of revolutionary democratic processes. The right wing is on the attack in Latin America. Its success in 2009 in Honduras against the government of Manuel Zelaya energised it and gave it the strength and confidence to strike again against the people and revolutionary governments in Latin America.

The National Assembly election in Venezuela, on September 26, while victorious for the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), also ceded space to the most reactionary and dangerous destabilising forces at the service of imperial interests. The United States managed to situate key elements in the Venezuelan National Assembly, giving them a platform to move forward with their conspiratorial schemes to undermine Venezuelan democracy.

The day after the election in Venezuela, the main advocate for peace in Colombia, Piedad Córdoba, was dismissed as a senator in the Republic of Colombia, by Colombia’s inspector general, on the basis of falsified evidence and accusations. But the attack against Senator Córdoba is a symbol of the attack against progressive forces in Colombia who seek true and peaceful solutions to the war in which they have been living for more than 60 years.

And now, on September 30, was the dawn of a coup d’etat in Ecuador. Insubordinate police took over a number of facilities in the capital of Quito, creating chaos and panic in the country. Supposedly, they were protesting against a new law approved by the National Assembly on September 29, which according to them reduced labour benefits.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, President Rafael Correa went to meet with the rebellious police but was attacked with heavy objects and tear gas, causing a wound on his leg and tear-gas asphyxiation. He was taken to a military hospital in Quito, where he was later kidnapped and held against his will, prevented from leaving.

Meanwhile, popular movements took to the streets of Quito, demanding the liberation of their president, democratically re-elected the previous year by a huge majority. Thousands of Ecuadorans raised their voices in support of President Correa, trying to rescue their democracy from the hands of coup plotters who were looking to provoke the forced resignation of the national government.

In a dramatic development, President Correa was rescued in an operation by special forces from the Ecuadoran military in the late evening hours. Correa denounced his kidnapping by the coup-plotting police and laid responsibility for the coup d’etat directly upon former president Lucio Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez was a presidential candidate in 2009 against Correa, and lost in a landslide when more than 55% voted for Correa.

During today’s events, Lucio Gutiérrez declared in an interview, “The end of Correa’s tyranny is at hand”, also asking for the “dissolution of parliament and a call for early presidential elections”.

But beyond the key role played by Gutiérrez, there are external factors involved in this attempted coup d’etat that are moving their pieces once again.

Infiltration of the police

According to journalist Jean-Guy Allard, an official report from Ecuador’s defense minister Javier Ponce, distributed in October of 2008, revealed “how US diplomats dedicated themselves to corrupting the police and the Armed Forces”.

The report confirmed that police units “maintain an informal economic dependence on the United States, for the payment of informants, training, equipment and operations”.

In response to the report, US ambassador in Ecuador Heather Hodges justified the collaboration, saying “We work with the government of Ecuador, with the military and with the police, on objectives that are very important for security.”

According to Hodges, the work with Ecuador’s security forces is related to the “fight against drug trafficking”.

Ambassador Hodges was sent to Ecuador in 2008 by then-president George W. Bush. Previously she headed the embassy in Moldova, a formerly part of the Soviet Union. She left Moldova sowing the seeds for a “coloured revolution” that took place, unsuccessfully, in April of 2009 against the majority Communist Party elected to parliament.

Hodges headed the Office of Cuban Affairs within the US State Department in 1991, as its deputy director. The department was dedicated to the promotion of destabilisation in Cuba. Two years later she was sent to Nicaragua in order to consolidate the administration of Violeta Chamorro, the president selected by the United States following the dirty war against the Sandinista government, which led to its exit from power in 1989.

When Bush sent her to Ecuador, it was with the intention of sowing destabilisation against Correa, in case the Ecuadoran president refused to subordinate himself to Washington’s agenda. Hodges managed to increase the budget for USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) directed toward social organisations and political groups that promote US interests, including within the indigenous sector.

In the face of President Correa’s re-election in 2009, based on a new constitution approved in 2008 by a resounding majority of men and women in Ecuador, the ambassador began to foment destabilisation.

USAID

Certain progressive social groups have expressed their discontent with the policies of the Correa government. There is no doubt that legitimate complaints and grievances against his government exist. Not all groups and organisations in opposition to Correa’s policies are imperial agents. But a sector among them does exist which receives financing and guidelines in order to provoke destabilising situations in the country that go beyond the natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government.

In 2010, the US State Department increased USAID’s budget in Ecuador to more than $38 million. In the most recent years, a total of $5,640,000 was invested in the work of “decentralisation” in the country. One of the main executors of USAID’s programs in Ecuador is the same enterprise that operates with the right wing in Bolivia: Chemonics Inc. At the same time, NED issued a grant of $125,806 to the Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) to promote free-trade treaties, globalisation and regional autonomy through Ecuadoran radio, television and newspapers, along with the Ecuadoran Institute of Economic Policy.

Organisations in Ecuador such as Participación Ciudadana and Pro-justicia (Citizen Participation and Pro-Justice), as well as members and sectors of CODEMPE, Pachakutik, CONAIE, the Corporación Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador [Indigenous Enterprise Corporation of Ecuador] and Fundación Qellkaj [Qellkaj Foundation] have had USAID and NED funds at their disposal.

During the events of September 30 in Ecuador, one of the groups receiving USAID and NED financing, Pachakutik, sent out a press release backing the coup-plotting police and demanding the resignation of President Correa, holding him responsible for what was taking place. The group even went so far as to accuse him of a “dictatorial attitude”. Pachakutik entered into a political alliance with Lucio Gutiérrez in 2002 and its links with the former president are well known.

“PACHAKUTIK ASKS PRESIDENT CORREA TO RESIGN AND CALLS FOR THE FORMING OF A SINGLE NATIONAL FRONT

Press Release 141

In the face of the serious political turmoil and internal crisis generated by the dictatorial attitude of President Rafael Correa, who has violated the rights of public servants as well as society, the head of the Pachakutik Movement, Cléver Jiménez, called on the indigenous movement, social movements and democratic political organizations to form a single national front to demand the exit of President Correa, under the guidelines established by Article 130, Number 2 of the Constitution, which says: “The National Assembly will dismiss the President of the Republic in the following cases: 2) For serious political crisis and domestic turmoil.”

Jiménez backed the struggle of the country’s public servants, including the police troops who have mobilized against the regime’s authoritarian policies which are an attempt to eliminate acquired labor rights. The situation of the police and members of the Armed Forces should be understood as a just action by public servants, whose rights have been made vulnerable.

This afternoon, Pachakutik is calling on all organizations within the indigenous movement, workers, democratic men and women to build unity and prepare new actions to reject Correa’s authoritarianism, in defense of the rights and guarantees of all Ecuadorans.

Press Secretary

PACHAKUTIK BLOQUE”

The script used in Venezuela and Honduras repeats itself. They try to hold the president and the government responsible for the “coup”, later forcing their exit from power. The coup against Ecuador is the next phase in the permanent aggression against ALBA and revolutionary movements in the region.

The Ecuadoran people remain mobilized in their rejection of the coup attempt, while progressive forces in the region have come together to express their solidarity and support of President Correa and his government.

[This article first appeared at Eva Golinger's website, Postcards from the Revolution.]

Eva Golinger's claims weaken us all

On September 30, as Ecuadorians lived through a police uprising that seemed to put the leadership of President Rafael Correa in jeopardy, people from around the world tuned into Twitter to garner information about what was happening on the ground.

Respected lawyer and author Eva Golinger sent out tweets in rapid-fire, informing readers from around the world with news from her sources in Ecuador. But as soon as translated statements from Ecuadorian Indigenous groups hit the ether, Golinger tweeted :

"Be careful, there are folks in CONAIE funded by US agencies that sway the organization to certain positions..."

Her tweet was in response to the English translation of a statement by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), one of the most powerful social movements in Latin America. In their statement , the CONAIE was anti-coup, but they also pointed to the fact that Correa himself had helped create the conditions for an uprising. The statement pointed out that the Correa administration has attacked and delegitimized social movements in Ecuador. It also criticized the "authoritarian character" of the government.

Golinger later wrote an article called Behind the Coup in Ecuador , which was widely circulated online. In it, she repeats her accusation that CONAIE has funds at its disposal from the National Endowment for Democracy that would somehow provoke the organization into destabilizing the government of Ecuador:

"Not all groups and organizations in opposition to Correa?s policies are imperial agents. But a sector among them does exist which receives financing and guidelines in order to provoke destabilizing situations in the country that go beyond the natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government... Organizations in Ecuador such as Participaci?n Ciudadana and Pro-Justicia [Citizen Participation and Pro-Justice], as well as members and sectors of CODENPE, Pachakutik, CONAIE, the Corporaci?n Empresarial Ind?gena del Ecuador [Indigenous Enterprise Corporation of Ecuador] and Fundaci?n Qellkaj [Qellkaj Foundation] have had USAID and NED funds at their disposal."

Golinger, however, provides no evidence to back up her statements and the evidence that has been made public in this regard, shows only that some individuals associated with some of the groups she names have had some kind of association with USAID and the NED at some point in the past.

But the CONAIE is not a US puppet and such allegations only serve to detract from real concerns that indigenous and non-indigenous organizations have been raising about legal reforms that President Correa has been pushing for during the last couple of years since the country's new constitution was passed in September 2008. Disputes between the CONAIE and Correa have arisen around real differences, for example, over the country's economic development model, the establishment of a plurinational state, pre-existing conflicts between local communities and Canadian-financed mining projects, oil industry expansion, as well as efforts to bring autonomous indigenous institutions under the control of the state.

All of these disputes have been exacerbated and complicated by repeated insults made directly by Correa against groups such as the CONAIE, most often during his weekly national radio addresses. Other attempts to delegitimize social organizations include serious criminal charges against their leadership.

Golinger presumptuously assumes the role of arbiter in defining what constitutes "natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government." In their September 30th statement, the CONAIE clearly outlined how their resistance to the government of Rafael Correa is part of their historical struggle to defend their rights and lands, and to work toward the construction of a Plurinational State. Indigenous peoples have been involved in five centuries of struggle, which has taken place in the courts and in the halls of congress as well as in the streets and on the land. Any attempts by outsiders to take agency away from the peoples and communities leading these struggles should be criticized.

In the week following September 30th, debate has emerged over whether or not what took place was an actual coup attempt. While such questions are being raised from diverse sides of the political spectrum, from the perspective of social organizations that have been persistently attacked by Correa over the last few years, they worry that such a characterization could be leveraged to the benefit Correa and the further passage of new laws without substantial debate, rather that as an opportunity to rebuild relationships and strengthen Ecuadorian democracy.

This is a complex and delicate situation and one that could be explored in much more detail. But it cannot simply be assumed - without wanting to ignore how elements of the right and their imperial backers might seek to take advantage of situations like these - that because groups are protesting against Correa that they are working on the empire's behalf. These kinds of accusations weaken us all, as they attempt to undermine years of brave and powerful organizing for freedom and justice by indigenous and non-indigenous people in Ecuador.

Golinger's Unsubstantiated Denunciation

Golinger's unsubstantiated denucnciations do more to damage her reputation than it does CONAIE. I would refer readers to www.narconews.com and read the excellant analysis of Golinger's "journalism" written by Fernando Leon and Erin Rosa.

It is easy to do what Golinger has done in portraying CONAIE as an agent of imperialism: to deconstruct history, make insinuations and draw assumptions and conclusions with no evidence. It is the method of the hack and the publicist, not of an honest reviewer. It also says something about Golinger's own political agenda. Allow me the liberty of writing in Golinger's style to better illustrate what she does. All the information contained in the following are undisputed facts. The framework which contains these facts is the same method Golinger uses against her political opponents in Ecuador.

"Once again United States lawyer Eva Golinger has unleashed her vitriol against a Latin American social movement; this time it is the highly respected indiginous organization CONAIE which has been instrumental in sweeping three right wing Ecuadorean governemnts from power."

"Golinger, formerly based in Washington, DC, as an employee of the government- funded, so-called "Venezueala Information Office", has repeatedly smeared indigenous organizations fighting imperialist encrouchments on their land and natural resources, insinuating that they are agents of the right wing."

"However, in spite of Golinger's accusations against CONAIE that "they have US funds at their disposal", she has not been able to provide one shred of evidence. It is indeed passing strange that someone who tries to pass themselves off as a leftist, yet who receives government-funding partly derived from the activities of American and other international oil companies, and who in the past has been able to use her contacts in Washington to show certain government documents to use against some political enemies, has not tried to directly refute the many respected social activists and organizations who have challenged her to provide proof of her unsubstantiated accusations".

In what is a bit of a complex and confusingsituation , for both non-Ecuadorean and misinformed progressives, Golinger's political agenda dressed up as "anaysis" does nothing to build solidarity with those fighting to establish a united front against the neoliberal model and their imperialist task masters. But perhaps, that is her aim after all.

Background on Ecuador from NACLA

https://nacla.org/node/5848

Correa’s Re-Election Poses More Challenges for Social Movements

May 27 2009
Jason Tockman

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has marched from one victory to the
next. In 2006, he won the presidency, campaigning squarely on a
promise to rewrite the country’s Constitution. Two years later,
despite stiff opposition from Congress, the Constitution was
resoundingly approved by a voter referendum. The new Constitution
required new elections, so Correa again ran for president. He won in a
landslide on April 26.

But Ecuador’s leading social movements remain skeptical about whether
his re-election will translate into the deep social changes promised
by the country’s new Constitution. Ecuador’s indigenous federations
are still reeling from a bitter fight over a controversial mining law
that the President pushed through the interim Congress in January.
Many indigenous groups withheld their support for Correa in the April
general elections, possibly costing his party a majority in the newly
established unicameral National Assembly.

Nonetheless, Correa achieved a feat unprecedented since the 1979
return to democracy: He won a majority of votes (52 percent) in the
first round of the presidential election, nearly doubling the amount
received by second-place finisher, Lucio Gutiérrez. Correa’s margin of
victory can be understood as a combination of factors: public support
for his political project, enthusiasm for the relative political
stability that accompanied his first term, a divided opposition, and
the disrepute of traditional political parties widely perceived as
irretrievably corrupt and unaccountable. Indeed, Correa has built his
political persona by railing against both the old partidocracia
(party-ocracy) and neoliberal economic policies, while shrewdly
positioning his party, Movement for a Proud and Sovereign Country
(MPAIS or Alianza PAIS), against this old guard.

In April’s National Assembly elections, MPAIS slightly stumbled,
falling just shy of the 50 percent plus one vote mark. But the party
is by far the largest single political force. Electoral authorities
are still compiling the final tally, but it appears MPAIS will secure
around 60 of the 124 seats. In passing legislation, Correa will likely
have to work with a smattering of smaller leftist parties, which hold
an estimated 15 seats. The remaining 50 seats are mostly divided
between a handful of conservative parties.

In achieving his many victories, Correa has displayed a combative
“with-me-or-against-me” approach in carrying through his agenda. One
of his more crushing victories was against the former Congress, which
was stonewalling the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. After a
10-month feud, Correa emerged victorious when the MPAIS-dominated
Constituent Assembly dissolved the Congress and assumed law-making
powers.

But his combative approach is not limited to dealings with the
reactionary right. The President has similarly tried to steamroll
progressive forces opposing his policies.

Correa’s already tenuous relationship with indigenous and
environmental social movements deteriorated when he proposed a new
mining law. The legislation offered mining companies unprecedented
large-scale open pit mining concessions throughout the country,
including on indigenous lands and environmentally sensitive areas.
Correa pushed the law through the interim Congress in January 2009,
sparking widespread protests. Activists complained the law would
negatively impact many rural and indigenous communities and that it
was approved without public debate or transparency.

A broad-based grassroots coalition emerged in opposition to the mining
law, including the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities
of Ecuador (CONAIE), environmental groups, human rights organizations,
and youth and urban sectors. Humberto Cholango, president of a
CONAIE-affiliated indigenous organization, captured the sentiment
against the law in a written statement: “We reject the anti-democratic
attitude of the national government and the legislative commission for
closing off dialogue, denying a national debate, and rushing through
the approval of the mining law, which promotes a model based on the
pillaging of natural resources and that favors transnational
corporations.”

In the view of these groups, the Correa administration is taking a
page from Ecuador’s neoliberal regimes in prioritizing the interests
of foreign investors over local people. Popular mobilization escalated
on January 20, as opponents to the mining law launched a national “Day
of Mobilization for Life” in which tens of thousands participated in
marches, roadblocks, and hunger strikes across Ecuador.

The government responded by arresting protesters, and firing bullets
and teargas, injuring dozens. Correa dismissed the protesting groups
as an “infantile left” made up of “fundamentalists” that cannot be
allowed to rise up against his program. Opposition groups countered
that Correa’s aggressive posturing and use of force was effectively
criminalizing dissent. Finally, in a move widely perceived as an act
of retaliation, the government revoked the legal status of Acción
Ecológica, a prominent environmental organization that had played a
visible role in the protests. (The group’s status was only reinstated
after an international campaign of solidarity was launched.)

The mining conflict hardened left-wing opposition toward Correa in the
run up to the April elections. Ecuador’s leading indigenous
federations gave particularly harsh rebukes. Cholango claimed, “We are
not going to support any presidential candidate, because none
represent a real alternative for the country.” CONAIE’s vice president
Miguel Guatemal similarly commented, “This is a racist and rude
government, and in the coming elections we will withdraw our support.”

Although opposition to Correa’s mining law may have been a factor in
denying him a majority in the National Assembly, his party should be
able to steer its legislative agenda by forming a coalition with one
or more small parties of the left. Correa’s need to negotiate with
other progressive forces may provide social movements with an avenue
to influence the administration’s program and policies.

CONAIE denies US funding

The Alleged Coup d’Etat, Democracy, and the Indigenous Organizations

By Marlon Santi

President, CONAIE

We, the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE, in
its Spanish initials) and the Pachakutik Bloc, in response to the
events of September 30, 2010, and the claims made in recent days about
the alleged support by USAID-NED to indigenous organizations,
standing firmly on our historic process of bringing about a true
Pluri-national State, announce:

The struggle of the peoples and nationalities is not an individual
one, rather, it corresponds to the collective dream of constructing a
diverse country, inclusive of the diverse popular and social organized
sectors that seek a real change to end the old neoliberal,
exploitative structures and the decolonization of the institutions of
the State. We seek a pluri-national democracy, respectful of the
rights of individuals, of collective organizations and of nature.

We energetically announce that there never was any attempted coup
d’etat, much less a kidnapping, but an event that responded to the
uncertain political management of the government that causes popular
discontent through permanent aggression, discrimination and violations
of human rights consecrated in the Constitution.

We do not recognize this dictatorial “democracy” because of its lack
of freedom of speech, the kidnapping of all the powers of the state by
the executive branch in its political system of one government, that
does not generate spaces to debate the projects, and laws elaborated
from the indigenous movement and other social sectors.

We categorically refute claims that the CONAIE, the Pachakutik
Political Movement, the peoples and nationalities have any
relationship at all with the organism known as USAID, previously NED,
not today nor ever. To the contrary, we know that this organization
finances the “social programs” of this government like the forest
partnership and that, yes, is condemnable.

We demand the constitutional suspension of the National Congress for
its failure to comply with the constitutional mandate that it
legislate much less audit as it is well known that all laws are
approved by the president’s legal minister.

We condemn the usurpation of press freedom when on September 30 all
media not allied with the government was forced to broadcast
government news in “cadena nacional,” a means by which all access to
information is controlled and manipulated with a version of the facts
that does not inform about the real dimensions of the situation on
that day in the country.

Quito, Ecuador, October 6, 2010

Government of the Peoples and Nationalities,

Marlon Santi

President, CONAIE

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