‘We are suffering’: Ecuadorian indigenous people explain protest

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Quito (AFP) – Indigenous Ecuadorians have flocked to the capital Quito from across the country in recent days to join protests against high fuel prices and the cost of living.

Four of the thousands of protesters told AFP why they responded to a call for nationwide anti-government protests by the association of indigenous peoples of Conaie.

In war’

Margarita Malaver, 35, traveled some 270 kilometers (167 miles) in the back of a truck from Puyo, the capital of southeastern Pastaza province, to Quito to declare ‘war’ with the State.

In Puyo – where she moved 15 years ago from her childhood home in the Amazon jungle region of Sarayaku in search of a decent life – she works as a laundress to feed herself and her three children.

Margarita Malaver from Puyo, Ecuador desperately wants ‘prices down’ Veronica LOMBEIDAAFP

Malaver, whose face is painted in black designs she says represents “war,” said she relies heavily on a $50 monthly poverty grant from the state.

She pays $80 to rent two bedrooms and a small kitchen for her family, and she has few school supplies left for her children or anything else.

She desperately wants “prices to come down”.

Life is “hard”, she told AFP. “There is not any work.”

The cost of a basic basket of consumer goods in Ecuador, for a family of four, is $735 today, compared to $710 a year ago.

Many, like Malaver, are protesting for the government to spend more on job creation, education and health.

Just two notebooks

Carlos Nazareno, 31, makes bamboo furniture in Pastaza, the same province where Malaver is from.

The job earns him about $300 in a good month, less than the minimum wage of $425, he told AFP, throwing in his hand among hundreds of other protesters.

The money, he says, is “barely enough to eat, and not enough for the school needs” of his four children, who go to class “with only two notebooks” between them.

Carlos Nazareno, who makes bamboo furniture in Pastaza, Ecuador, says he wins
Carlos Nazareno, who makes bamboo furniture in Pastaza, Ecuador, says he earns “barely enough to eat” Veronica LOMBEIDAAFP

Nazareno said there were times when he didn’t sell “anything for a week.”

“My children ask me for things and I have no way to give them…my motorbike is parked because I have no money for fuel or to get food,” he said. he declares.

In just over a year, fuel prices have risen sharply – almost doubling for diesel from $1 to $1.90 per gallon and from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline .

vote lost

Nele Cuchipe, 52, took over custody of her two grandchildren when her son, their father, died.

Her goal, she says, is to give young people a good education and a better future than their current life of poverty in the southern province of Cotopaxi.

Nele Cuchipe is raising her two grandchildren in Cotopaxi Province, southern Ecuador
Nele Cuchipe is raising her two grandchildren in Cotopaxi Province, southern Ecuador Veronica LOMBEIDAAFP

None of his surviving children have jobs.

Cuchipe lives by growing potatoes, barley and a cereal called chocho, but is suffering from recent price increases for products such as oil, butter and fertilizer for his crops.

She said she wished she could override the vote she cast for President Guillermo Lasso just over a year ago, mistakenly believing that as a “banker, businessman” he would save the economy.

“Instead, hunger will kill us,” Cuchipe said.

“We are suffering because of this government which does not want to understand, which does not react to anything,” she said.

No savings

Ruben Chaluisa, 30, said he earned $10 a day working as a bricklayer in the town of Zumbahua, elsewhere in Cotopaxi province.

Ecudoran Ruben Chaluisa works as a mason in the city of Zumbahua
Ecudoran Ruben Chaluisa works as a mason in the city of Zumbahua Veronica LOMBEIDAAFP

He also grows potatoes and a root vegetable known as melloco to feed his wife and two children.

“We don’t manage to have savings like the others,” said Chaluisa, huddled against the cold in a red poncho.

Chaluisa said he had to start working at the age of 12 and fears the cycle of poverty will repeat itself with his own offspring.

I want them “not to suffer like us, to be a little more advanced than us”.

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