Leonidas Iza, the inflexible leader at the helm of the indigenous movement in Ecuador

Kichwa, anti-capitalist and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), Leonidas Iza Salazar is at the head of the Native American protest movement that has paralyzed part of the country since 13 June, including the capital Quito. They are strongly calling for measures to address the cost of living, which has risen significantly in rural areas.

Once again dressed in his red poncho, Leonidas Iza confronted government officials on Monday June 28 after being on the street for nearly two weeks. Accused by the government of being an “anarchist” e stopped at the beginning of the movement obtain “ paralyzed a public service “, Has become a true icon for Ecuadorian natives and has already bent the Ecuadorian government for the first time.

In the face of street protests and the distrust of Parliament, which blames the unrest on the mismanagement of the President Guillermo Lassothe executive backtracked on one of the movement’s demands. The price of petrol and diesel has been reduced of 10 cents of dollars. The state of emergency, declared a week earlier in six of the country’s 24 provinces, has even been suspended.

First victories for the leader of the movement who is still asking for a 40 cent reduction and a list of ten measures to help rural populations with the cost of living. After the first state guarantees, now the stalemate continues at the negotiating table. In addition to the price of gasoline, the demands revolve around the renegotiation of bank loans granted to farmers or the control of prices for agricultural products.

Bringing indigenous rights back to center stage

Almost a year after being elected head of the Conaie, this 30-year-old of the Kichwa people plays a decisive role in this great mobilization in Ecuador. Leonidas Iza, an inflexible leader, wants to give the indigenous peoples back the power he had in particular in the 1990s and 2000s. Three Ecuadorian heads of state then had to resign under pressure from indigenous organizations.

From a modest family, the young leader was the only one of his brothers to have studied at the university. Born in Cotopaxi, in the south of the country, he follows the line of his father José María Iza Viracocha. The latter had distinguished himself in the demonstrations of the 90s. Leonidas Iza was involved at a young age in the indigenous rights movement. He gladly cites Dolores Cacuango and Transito Amaguaña as models, two pioneers in the struggle for indigenous rights in Ecuador.

In 2019 he made himself known when, together with Jaime Vargas, he participated in the related popular uprising always at the price of petrol. Lenin Moreno, the then president, had been forced to resign. After these demonstrations, his name was mentioned as one of the presidential candidates of the indigenous Pachakutik party. The 2021 presidential candidate will be Yaku Pérez. He finished third in the first round with 19.39% of the votes, just behind candidate Lasso (19.74%). If the indigenous movement failed at the gates of power in 2021, his place remains central to the political game in Ecuador.

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