Sunday, April 11, 2021

“In Latin America, water is the symbol of life and the engine of popular resistance”

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Tribune. In Ecuador, the current presidential election is historic for indigenousism and ecology, in Latin America and beyond. At the end of the first round, on February 7, Andres Arauz, socialist candidate supported by former President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), largely came out on top. It is the curator Guillermo Lasso who will face him in the second round, on April 11. But Yaku Sacha Pérez Guartambel, an environmental activist of indigenous origin, has already created a surprise. He obtained a result that no poll had predicted: third, missing the second round for less than 0.4% of the vote. Denouncing a fraud, he then called for a recount of the votes.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The presidential election soap opera continues in Ecuador

The name he chose for himself means “mountain water” in Quechua. In a country marked by a wave of mobilisations in the fall of 2019, then strongly affected by the pandemic, Yaku Pérez, from the province of Azuay in the Andes mountain range, represents the Pachakutik movement, a party from the Confederation of indigenous nationalities of Ecuador. Its electoral success highlights an ecological theme that is increasingly visible in the public debate: that of water.

Defense of natural resources

Defender of Indian cultures, Yaku Pérez made a name for himself by opposing several attempts to privatize water. Incarcerated five times after clashes with mining companies or during protests against water laws, he joined the Pachakutik party in 2019. He was then elected prefecto from its region of origin, with a program marked by the defense of natural resources threatened by mining activities.

It was also the heart of his presidential program: “The earth is a living being, just like water is a living being. The stone is not silent, it simply remains silent ”, he repeats on social networks, between walks in defense of nature and bike rides, a means of transport that he helped to popularize as a prefect.

How to explain this success of ecology in Ecuador? There are two reasons for this: at the level of the Latin American region first, water, a strategic resource, has acquired major visibility in recent years; at the national level then, because the country has become the champion of buen vivir, “good living”, enshrined in 2008 in the Constitution, after Rafael Correa came to power in 2007.

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