By Linda McFarlin as reported by Cesar
Many people living in Ecuador have no idea who they are. They have lost their identity. There are no big works to develop art and Ecuador culture. When I say this, I mainly mean the mestizos.
The indigenous know who they are. They have tenaciously managed to retain their customs, costumes and identity. As people tied to the land, they are grounded in a culture that is distinctly theirs, despite foreign domination. Cotacachi is an example of this. It has its own music, unique festivals and a sense of pride.
The Quechua language and culture was being lost. Mestizos had the power and they discriminated against the indigenous for many years. The indigenous began to reject their own Ecuador culture.
The last 30 years have been very important for the indigenous because different organizations have helped them rescue their culture. Before, it wasn’t good to be indigenous. But now the indigenous have pride. Now they see their value as human beings.
I’ve been to indigenous festivals and they speak in Quechua. They wonder, “What are these people doing trying to help develop our culture in Ecuador? They don’t even speak Quechua! They need to learn Quechua first.”
My father helps little organizations to get stronger, to have an organizing culture. The people wanted to do things but didn’t know how. He gave them ideas and a perspective of what to do to get a better job, better education, better health.
There is a big work going on in Intag because it is an ecological reservation, a very important area.
Most presidents before Correa were corrupt. They let many authorities extract minerals from the Intag. (Intag is a large, remote, sub-tropical region in Cotacachi Canton.) People didn’t want it. These companies contaminated the water and the land. The people live from the land and they don’t want anything else. If they lose the land they lose everything!
The people were promised jobs, but the land was completely destroyed. So the people organized and studied what happened after extraction. "They studied Bolivia and Chile. They began to fight but had no power. The enterprises just paid off the government to get whatever they wanted."
Casar says that one of the enterprises also started paying Colombian guards to protect their interests. A Japanese company had tried that before but gave up.
This company is really big and fought hard. The people went to the government and slowly took steps toward their goal. They had meetings with Correa’s authorities who aren’t corrupt and gained a concession.
Two weeks ago the Ecuadorian government asked this company to go! Many communities who knew about the Intag case got together and helped to stop the enterprise. This is a big and important victory for the people of Cotacachi.
Participatory democracy started 10-12 years ago. Auki Tituania, the mayor of Cotacachi, started it in Cotacachi first. He started a health care system and an autonomous hospital. Doctors come from Cuba. Health care here is very cheap.
Auki Tituania is indigenous. The money that Auki gets from the government for projects, he asks the people first how they want to spend it. This form of government has been very successful in Cotacachi. Now, the model is spreading to other parts of Ecuador.
Before Auki, the Assemblea had tried to get money from ONG’s (NGO’s—non-governmental organizations) for helpful projects. But after those projects ended, nothing happened. They didn’t ask the people what they wanted. They gave them what they thought they needed.
The people didn’t really want or need the projects. Through the Assemblea they get what they really need and can tell the foundations what they really need. So now it’s not what the NGO wants, it’s what the people want. We don’t have time for the old way anymore.
In the last 25 years of democracy, he’s been our best president. Our democracy wasn’t a real democracy. Only rich people could be a candidate and run for office. Correa started working door-to-door campaigning, working with people, not through television channels and publicity.
Finally the people trusted him. He was clear. He said that Ecuador needs a revolution, a big change.
The last two presidents were kicked out by the people. Correa works for a change inside. He is doing what he said he’d do and the people are happy with him.
The owners of the media, banks and economic enterprises--they don’t like Correa because he wants to empower the people. But people don’t believe the media’s comments anymore. They’ve given us wrong information for years.
Commentators thought they were owners of the truth and that the whole country should believe them. But Correa told people what the media was really doing. Now the people feel the power in their hands.
He’s making a new constitution. People support it. 80% of Ecuador wants a new constitution.
In the last 10 years, many South American presidents who are socialists got the power.
In the past the South American process of social transformation was cut down. The results were disastrous. There was economic poverty, corruption. This continent is coming back to write its own story. It’s alive like a human body. If you put something in your body that’s foreign to it, toxic, the body rejects it first before it gets healthy again.
The future is very interesting. We will write our own story and make our own decisions. South America is trying to understand what it really is.
Correa can be president of Ecuador for 8 years—a 4-year term with 4 years of re-election.
Auki Tituania has been mayor of Cotacachi for about 10 years or so. He needed that long to initiate the changes he wanted to implement. Before Auki, Cotacachi was just an ordinary little village.
Auki wants to be president of Ecuador, but Correa is strong and very popular. Correa’s movement will probably continue. After his term as mayor, Auki will probably try to be provincial governor or president of Ecuador, but I don’t think he will win.
Correa has very good characteristics. He is a natural leader and won’t let anyone tell us what to do. I don’t think Chavez can control Correa. Correa is very brave and also very educated. He is a very intelligent man. He is not just another idealist. He understands the economy and has a real perspective, not an idealistic one, regarding what is happening in Ecuador.
Our president has clearly stated that Ecuador doesn’t have to follow a Venezuelan model or an Asian model. We will have our own model.
Chavez wants power. Correa wants opportunities for his people. He wants a union of South American countries, but different from the kind of union that Chavez wants.
Editor's Note: So ended our meeting with Cesar. He spoke English rapidly and with a calm intensity, like a man with a mission who doesn’t have much time. Our time with him left us anticipating great works from him and looking forward to our next conversation.